Shack-a-Thon persists through rain

Students set up cardboard homes to spend the night at the Batten Student Center.

Laila Jones|Marlin Chronicle

Members of Students Against Continued Homelessness (SACH) slept outside in cardboard boxes on March 8 and 9 to boost awareness of homelessness during an annual event known as the Shack-a-Thon. The club hosted multiple speakers and events on Saturday, March 9. 

Sophomore Aiden Foley, president of SACH, said the goal of the event was “starting that conversation by putting it into their face,” referring to people who didn’t care or weren’t aware of the problem of homelessness. 

In response to a question asking why SACH was sleeping outside, Foley said, “Why are there people that have to do it?” He said that in the future, he hoped to fundraise through this event. 

It rained for most of that Saturday and during both nights. Sophomore Isaac Awogboro, secretary of SACH, was resolved to see the event through despite discussions of cancellation for the second night.

“[We’re] still going to do it tonight—people are sleeping out in the rain when they’re homeless,” Awogboro said on the first night of Shack-a-Thon.

The second night had students sleeping in the rain in cardboard boxes. “People are living homeless every day,” Awogboro said. “We’re only doing it for two.” 

Foley described an incident Saturday morning where Campus Security came over to the event. He said that security was worried that the students were actually homeless people who had somehow made their way onto campus.

“They weren’t ready to ask us if we needed a place to stay,” Foley said. “They were ready to ask us to leave.”

According to Foley, when security found out that the SACH members were students, they were permitted to stay.

Along with the night outside, SACH hosted several speakers. Among them was Jordan Brown, the lead pastor of Ocean View Church, one of the main organizers of a mission to house homeless people in churches. 

Brown gave a talk about his struggles with housing insecurity, sleeping in his car and on friends’ couches. Since then, he has done a lot of work to organize housing and support for unhoused people in the area. He said in order to help these people, one of the most important things is to give them a permanent address, which makes it easier for them to apply for jobs and get mail. 

In his talk, he discussed what he called “inspiration by burden.” Inspiration by burden is the desire to do good from experiencing a burden. He talked about his work helping found the first homeless shelter in Norfolk and all the work he has done since then. 

Junior Judah King assembling a shack for the Shack-a-Thon. 

Laila Jones|Marlin Chronicle

“We don’t have all the resources, but we’re making it work,” Brown said.

One of his big points was that homeless people, or as Brown called them, unhoused people, are people just like everyone else. The stereotypes of unhoused people as drug addicts, lazy or both don’t cover all, or even most, homeless people.

“These folks are knowledgeable, caring, loving people going through a tough time,” Brown said. “People are complex—if you don’t believe me, keep living.”

This message resonated with the members of SACH.

“We have to treat people like people,” Foley said. He said that people living on the streets were “flawed—which is what all of us are.”

“We’re all closer to being homeless than we think,” Awogboro said.

In terms of making a difference, Foley said that he was hoping to take donations soon to help homeless people. He also said that people should talk to each other about their financial struggles.

“It’s uncomfortable, but that’s the point,” Foley said.

This event marks the second annual Shack-a-Thon, which is for many students the only time they see SACH. Getting the issue of homelessness front and center, where it can’t be ignored is the point of the Shack-a-Thon, but it isn’t the only point of the club.

“Our goal is not just to run this event and then not do anything again,” Awogboro said. He talked about events that the club had hosted such as the Safe House training with guest speaker Karen Lynne. In addition, he discussed how they had helped with soup kitchens and were hoping to do more events like that in the future.

“The more we volunteer, the more we can help the community,” Awogboro said.

Brown said that if someone wanted to make a difference, the best way was to “align yourself with a good organization,” and that the most important things to help were “compassion and resources.”

“The rest of it can and will take care of itself,” Brown said.

Foley discussed issues with apathy, which he said was “on the rise.” He said a common thing among young people was the idea: “I’m just one person, what can I do?”

Foley pushed back on this idea. He said that he founded this club because there wasn’t anything like it on campus, and he wanted there to be. As he put it, “you’re only one person until you find somebody else.”

“All that’s necessary for a force of good to be created is to find a couple of people that want to do good,” Foley said.

By Victoria Haneline