Traveling down Gay Street, you may have noticed three shacks on the front lawn of the Wesley Foundation. These are not shacks, but homes.
Lisa Pierce, founder and director of Alabama Rural Ministries (ARM), is living in a house made of plywood and scrap materials to raise awareness of poverty in Alabama. Pierce moved in Friday, Oct. 11, and will stay until she raises $50,000 as part of her No More Shacks Campaign.
Approching the houses, one expects an endless regurgitation of facts and possibly a lackluster speech on poverty in Alabama, but that is not the case with Pierce's campaign. Pierce brings people into her home and for a few, all-too-brief moments, displays the poverty experience first-hand.
"It's also more of an awareness of the poverty housing and it's a volunteer drive," Pierce said. "We really want to get people hands-on with helping us in the community. It's really to show what sub-standard poverty housing looks like."
So far, ARM has raised $13,000, which will help build four small houses, and $50,000 goal will go to repairing 16 houses.
There are three houses on the lawn this year.Pierce is living in one, Wesley students built the second and the third replicates international poverty housing.
"For us, when we repair a home there are three things we look at." Pierce said. "We are looking to make it warm, safe and dry."
ARM evaluates a home's weatherization to see if the windows and doors are insulated, if the house is handicapped accessible and if the plumbing is in working order.
Pierce said she wants people to have a hands-on experience with poverty.
Guests will feel the splintering wood underneath their finger nails, and the cool breeze flowing through the cracks of the house.
"What we are trying to do is give a visual representation, be a little bit sacrificial in when we stay in it," Pierce said. "Me and others are going to be susceptible to the elements, and engage the everyday person who might want to help out in some way."
She said, there are a lot of Alabamians that live in houses similar to the one she lives in for the week.
"I've been in this when a tropical storm came through and I stayed in it," Pierce said. "That helps people get a visual of what's going on. It's hard for families to live in these conditions and when they just don't have the resources to hire somebody to fix the house."
Pierce asked a group of middle school girls what they would do if their grandparents had to live in a house like this, what happens when it rains or if it is cold outside.
She recieved answers such as: "My grandpa would go off the deep end!"
There are some families that do not have running water or electricity in their houses. Most of the families ARM works with live in their home, so the construction team tries to repair their home to make it better.
When Pierce explained to the girls she sleeps in the "shacks" to raise awareness and fundraise $50,000.
"Let me put (it) into perspective, how much do you think a small car would cost?" Pierce asked. The girls estimated thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One girl asked if any of the houses Pierce lived in had bathrooms.
"The first house I ever repaired, the family had been living in a bus " Pierce said. "They had about nine kids about your age. The school system found out and gave them a portable classroom, which did not have a bathroom. So we had to help them with their bathroom. "
In Alabama, there is a shortage of 90,000 housing units and rapidly deteriorating homes in the area.
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