‘Home Sweet Dorm’ only goes so far: student homelessness

'Home Sweet Dorm' only goes so far: student homelessness

Kacey Minnick

Imagine attending college with no roof over your head.

According to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more than 33,000 college students nationwide face this situation. Guilford is no exception to this statistic.

While some of us don’t acknowledge homelessness on campus, the problem is a complex issue.

Because most homeless students choose not to reveal their situation, I believe the statistic mentioned above is higher. And Guilford has its own numbers to contribute, despite not knowing exactly what they are.

“Homelessness isn’t just the stereotypical bum image,” says James Shields, director of the Bonner Center. “It’s also crashing on a friend’s couch when you have no place to go, not being allowed to go home because you flunked out. It’s a variety issue.” This variety means no one can really tell who is homeless.

Homelessness creates such a massive stigma that most of the homeless population keeps their situation hidden and their identities anonymous by revealing themselves only to confidential sources.

According to Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow, students facing the highest risk for homelessness are CCE students.

“This is because it is easier for administration to keep up with and reach out to traditional students,” says Fetrow.

However, traditional students do not always spend all four years on campus. For those students, homelessness becomes a greater possibility.

“Most traditional students who become homeless do so in their junior or senior year,” Fetrow estimates.

Almost all of us have a hefty amount of loans to pay after graduation. We all know it’s true when we call ourselves “poor college students.”

I faced the following fact long ago amidst my own work with the homeless and hungry: anyone is one missed paycheck away from homelessness.

As a student body, we choose not to acknowledge this. The idea of a personal economic decline that leads to a life on the streets is not something we consider on a daily basis.

Why don’t we? We’re supposed to be a socially conscious campus.

The reason is simple: privilege. Not white privilege. Not straight privilege. Just privilege.

The only way to break this trend of apathy at Guilford is to step beyond the “bubble.” According to Associate Dean of Students JenAgor, there is only so much the Guilford administration can do, due to liability and safety issues.

This is where the work of Junior Hunger Fellow Helen Mandalinic is crucial. She has been on the front line against homelessness for many years. Her work with the campus food pantry and Community Kitchens Project aids the homeless both within and outside Guilford.

“It’s not what Guilford can do, but what students can do,” Mandalinic says. “It’s about joining organizations that are already making a big impact. That way, we create a stronger force to help the issue.”

Her advice is the only way we can continue in preventing and stopping homelessness.

We can’t rely on others to solve this issue, especially when it is so close to our doorsteps. It’s our own ideas and work that will end homelessness.