Not many people would be willing to give up the comforts of their home, air conditioning, heat and bed for a shack on Wesley Lawn.
Lisa Pierce, Auburn graduate in animal science, spends one week a year living out of a shack to replicate poverty as best she can, which meant this year, she lived in the shack during a hurricane, trying to raise $100,000.
The shack is a visual representation of poverty, with room to sleep and nothing more. The first year living in the shack entailed raising $10,000 for those in need of home repair for families in need who are no longer working.
“They’re on social security — which social security is anywhere from $800 to $1,000 a month,” Pierce said. “It’s just enough to take care of a person’s kind of basic needs, but if they have a significant repair, the cost of the contractor is just out of their scope. There’s just really no way that they can do that without sacrificing on the other end.”
When people walk up to the shack, they can actually see two rooms — the one Pierce sleeps in and the guest shack. Pierce allows anyone who wants to try it to come and spend a night – seeing what it’s like living in poverty.
The walls of the shacks are decorated in colorfully painted words and pictures. Children are allowed to decorate the walls for $5 a piece, which contributes to the overall fund.
“What we want to do is keep families in their homes so that they don’t become homeless and add to that population,” Pierce said. “We’re trying to prevent homelessness or prevent families from living in conditions that create health issues.”
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Pierce explained that the shack serves as a contrast to comfortable living.
“The shack replicates everything that’s not warm, safe and dry,” Pierce said. “Roof that, you know, we have to tarp if it’s going to rain, you know, the windows that are kind of open.”
Pierce said because of the age of the shack, it leaks easily. This year with the hurricane, they protected it with a strong tarp.
“It’s eerie to be sitting in there and to hear the sound of the tarp flapping back and forth,” Pierce said. “You’ve got the wind, kind of the gusts that would come in and kind of rock the shack a little bit because it’s sitting on that trailer.”
Pierce normally woke up at about 5 a.m., spent some time with herself and time in prayer and meditated with her scripture before starting a fire.
A friend would bring breakfast, and then from 9 a.m. on people would come to spend time with her for 3-hour blocks.
“Toward the end you just get really tired, just from you feel like you’re living outside,” Pierce said. “You’re having to kind of go back and forth, you know, from one building to the next.”
Pierce said it can be difficult living in the shack near downtown. Game days bring noise, inebriated crowds and lots of foot traffic. She said the noise of the nearby bars can shake the shack.
“I get to come home and ... resume my normal life, and others don’t get that luxury,” Pierce said.
Pierce started Alabama Rural Ministry years ago, and the mission of the shack is a direct part of the ministry’s vocation.
“The real hardest part to me is that I sit in there and I think about all the things I’m experiencing,” Pierce said.
Thinking of how many families go through poverty, she said, reminds her of how much work there is yet to be done and how thankful she is to be able to help.
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