Sleeping Out in Support of Habitat

By Rachel Durham, Florida State University Habitat for Humanity

Seminole Shack Showdown is an awareness-based fundraising event that brings together students from across Florida State University’s campus to join together for a common cause: the right to decent housing.

Campus organizations construct and lived in shacks in the middle of campus for three days.

Day 1: Sunday

Noon-5 p.m.
Students from eight different campus organizations construct six shacks. There’s a lovely high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

6-8 p.m.
Students settle in. While each of the eight organizations has participated before, many students here have not, and all are excited to be sleeping out on campus. 

8-11 p.m.
Students mingle. In addition to community service hours, this event gives the opportunity to meet new friends.

11 p.m.-7 a.m.
I sleep in my camping hammock so more people can fit in our shacks. While we are fortunate to have no rain, we are unable to escape one little weather element tonight: the cold. Tonight’s low is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Day 2: Monday

7 a.m.
We wake up to a cold but sunny morning. We hear students arriving for their 8 a.m. classes, trying to figure out if there are people in the shacks. (We have several signs posted around the perimeter with details about the event.)

9 a.m.-4 p.m.
The day is filled with small fundraising events by each shack. Those from the Wesley Foundation (“Wesleyans,” as I like to say) sell coffee for donations. Other shacks hold bake sales. Jacqueline, our advocacy leader, sets up a table by the main campus walkway that lines our shacks. She and other Habitat members encourage students to write letters to their congressional representatives supporting the Shelter, Land and Urban Management (SLUM) Assistance Act and HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.

6-7 p.m.
Our executive board puts on Habitat for Humanity International’s Housing Simulation. More than 100 people are assigned a character and situation and told to find housing. Afterwards, we split into groups to reflect on the activity and how Habitat helps those in need of decent, affordable housing. 

8 p.m.-7 a.m.
Tonight is the highly anticipated and competitive sleep-out competition. In spite of the low being 36 degrees Fahrenheit, a total of 86 students spend the night out. We start off with a movie night, projecting films from the FSU Film School onto a sheet by the shacks. It’s a huge party until 1 a.m.

Day 3: Tuesday

9 a.m.-1 p.m.
This afternoon is dedicated to teaching students about Habitat’s international locations. The Wesleyans, for example, hand out small bags filled with half a cup of rice. A piece of paper stapled to each bag explains that this is the average Guatemalan’s food ration per day. Students then describe the housing conditions there and how Habitat is helping.

4 p.m.
Deconstruction of the shacks. All wood that can be reused is taken to our Spring build site. Once the organization fees and fundraising efforts are combined, the event raises about $740. Students, myself included, return home with a renewed sense of appreciation for the roof over our heads and a warm blanket to sleep under tonight.