Willimantic, Conn. –Despite temperatures in the low 20s on Nov. 18, students at Eastern Connecticut State University spent the night sleeping in cardboard boxes for the annual “Shackathon” to raise awareness about homelessness. The 30-hour overnight event was organized by Eastern’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
With the students bringing sleeping bags, blankets, cardboard boxes and plenty of duct tape to the Shackathon, the front of Eastern’s Student Center was transformed into a shantytown. “It’s pretty windy and cold out, but it’s not that bad in the box,” said math major Emily Cameron, a senior from Terryville and club president of Habitat for Humanity. “And we have the luxury of unlimited duct tape and boxes, which the homeless don’t have.”
When asked why the club chose to have the event during such cold weather, Cameron responded, “From Nov. 15–23 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, this is a very charitable time of year,” she said. “Also, the homeless don’t get to pick when they are homeless, based on the weather.”
The Shackathon is also a fundraiser, with all proceeds going to the Windham chapter of Habitat for Humanity; over the years thousands of dollars have been raised.
Habitat for Humanity club members were not required to participate, but those who braved the cold are given preference for the club’s coming alternative spring break trip to Tennessee, where they will build houses with other volunteers. For the 30-hour duration of the event, participants were allowed only to go inside to use the restroom or to take a class.
“This is an inspirational event,” said sociology major Morgan Marquis, a freshman from Bethel. “It opens your eyes as to what the reality is for many people outside of campus. People are homeless in Willimantic and across the world. And the cold weather makes it that much more intense.”