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Goals of Shack City clarified

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, April 13, 2005

As the lead member of the Shack City Planning Team each of the past two years, I am writing to clarify the goal and mission of Shack City in an effort to eliminate any confusion, some of which was expressed in a Letter to the Editor titled “Poverty is death” in the April 8 issue of The Observer.

Shack City is a Habitat for Humanity sponsored sleep-out beginning on Saturday, April 16 that seeks to further Habitat’s goal of eliminating substandard housing worldwide. The students will advocate through letter writing, fundraise through the acquisition of sponsorship, and most importantly, educate others and be educated themselves.

Habitat supplies boxes for participants to boost the educational aspect, not to “pretend to be homeless.” Rather, the boxes create a visual effect that participants and non-participants alike will see and remember, and they bring to the front of one’s mind actual substandard housing in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, through the poverty facts written in brightly colored chalk on the sides of the boxes, they help create an environment in which substandard housing is clearly the focus.

Speakers from the Center for the Homeless and a relevant video will also add to the educational aspects of the evening. We hope that these and the other educational components compel participants to taking more direct action in the future.

While we could never re-create true homelessness on a Saturday night on South Quad, nor would we want to, we can put it on people’s minds. Events such as a “Hunger Banquet,” “30 hour famine,” or Shack City do not and cannot attempt to recreate the actual problem, but rather raise funds and create an environment fostering greater understanding of that issue. We would never mock a person or problem that we care so deeply about, and Habitat would not hold this event if it was not being done in a way that is consistent with our ideals of solidarity.

Finally, the event is specifically designed to be an enjoyable experience for the participants, for example by providing live music and midnight marshmallows. While clearly not the focus of the event, they do encourage a broader range of students to attend, thereby increasing the effectiveness of both education and fundraising.

The event certainly is not perfect and is not the all-inclusive solution, but it takes us in the direction of Habitat’s goal to eliminate substandard housing. Should anyone have concerns or suggestions, please contact me directly.

I am excited about this opportunity to raise funds to support soon-to-be Habitat homeowners in South Bend and also Puebla, Mexico through our developing special partnership with Puebla’s affiliate. Best of all, there is still time to register! Will you join us?

Ryan Iafigliola

Habitat for Humanity Education and

Outreach Coordinator

Shack City Planning Team leader