Making campus your home — without a dorm

One student shares how he lived in stairwells, hammocks, and tents on the Boca campus for almost two months.


A tent set up for the night outside the Williams Administration Building on the Boca Raton campus. Joshua Giron | Contributing Photographer

Andrew Fraieli, Contributing Writer

At the beginning of this semester, I had no dorm, no car, and a house that was two hours away in Melbourne from the Boca campus.

From sleeping on friends’ couches to strategically keeping food in their dorms, I snuck around and lived in the dorms for a month. After that, I moved outside, sleeping in tents, my hammock, and stairwells.

About three weeks in I got a locker for $50 at the Rec Center. I put my clothes, my cameras, and all my day-to-day stuff into this locker. It became my morning routine to wake up, go to the Rec Center, shower, change clothes, put my sleeping bag and sleeping pad into my locker, and then get breakfast. Every evening I went to the Rec Center before 11 p.m. — when it closes — to get my sleeping pad and bag.

For food, every morning I went to Einstein Bros. Bagels and got breakfast. For dinner, I started eating at the cafeteria. I stopped eating at my friends’ places for the same reason I started sleeping outside, I didn’t want to live off other people’s schedules anymore. My friends are very kind, but of course they weren’t always in their rooms, so I couldn’t eat whenever I wanted.

It’s $9.81 for a student and you get an unlimited buffet. I’d go at about 4:30 p.m. and stay until 6 p.m. working on homework.

I slowly started experimenting with where and how to sleep outside. There’s a small wooded area in the back of Palm Beach State I’d known about for a long time.

Setting up my rented tent ended with me muddy and wet in a friend’s dorm as it wasn’t waterproof. Another night I slept in a building’s muggy and bright stairwell by the door to the roof. (I’d known the door to the stairwell was open at night from checking before.)

Yet another night I slept outside in my hammock in the trees across from Parliament, while no one bothered me, it rained. The next night was a different stairwell. This one was dark and it was a cool night, so I slept comfortably within my sleeping bag and on my sleeping pad.

By the end, that final stairwell became my go to. The nights were becoming cooler so the stairwell wasn’t hot, it was dark and easy to get to after sneaking into the building at night, and no one ever went up there.

The end of October was the end of my homelessness on campus though. At this point I was getting tired of being outside, anxious of being caught at night, and wanted a permanent bed. Of course it didn’t change my situation by just wanting that.

My parents were kind enough to give me money to buy groceries as my side gig of writing freelance is not a particularly well-paying or stable income. So, my homelessness ended, and for the rest of the semester I drove two hours, both ways, to FAU twice a week.

My locker is now mostly empty and I no longer spend the evenings deciding between testing the rainy skies at night and a muggy stairwell. I do hope that this gives some kind of insight into what students do on this campus under the radar. And if there are other students who are really homeless, unlike me, I hope that this can help give ideas on how to go about it.

Andrew Fraieli is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email him at [email protected].