HSU groups seeks to help houseless students

By Morgan Brizee
Flapjack Staff

It’s 40 degrees outside at nine o’clock at night. You’re cramped in a small compact car parked on the street in front of Humboldt State and you’re worried about getting a ticket for sleeping in your car.

This and not knowing how to pay for the next meal are some worries that many Humboldt State students deal with daily. Humboldt State has one program on campus called Oh Snap, which is a food pantry for students to use. Oh Snap is free for Humboldt State students to use once a week to get food. But for the students that are homeless right now, there is no program on campus. A Homeless Student Advocacy Alliance (HSAA) club formed to offer help to students in need of somewhere to live.

Michael Barnes, a 27-year-old communications major at Humboldt State, is the vice president of the HSAA club.

“HSU has been supportive of the efforts of HSAA and so has the city of Arcata,” said Barnes. “At this point in time we know that an open dialog between these two major entities is possible and necessary in taking steps toward alleviating the issue of student homelessness and hunger.”

Chanté Cat is a 37-year-old sociology major at Humboldt State who is the President of the HSAA. Cat believes that it is partly HSU’s responsibility to provide programs for students in need.

“They should warn new students of the housing issues we have, warn about pet policy issues, get involved in our community,” said Cat. “At the least have housing liaisons, partnerships with the community, offer lockers and showers, space to park and other services to ease the housing gap issues.”

Many transfer and freshman students aren’t told how hard it is to get housing either on or off campus before they move to HSU. The school doesn’t have enough on campus housing to house the number of students coming in and already enrolled. Students have complained that the off-campus apartments around the neighborhood are hard to get into and have strict rules and guidelines to follow.

Mira Friedman is 39 years old and is a health educator, Director of Prevention Education through the Department of Justice grant and co-coordinator of the Oh Snap program.

“I think that [HSU] should institutionalize the Oh Snap program and provide ongoing resources such as funding and provide additional storage,” said Friedman. “The research shows that 53% of our HSU students are food insecure.”

Over half of HSU students are unable to get access to food, that is about 4,506 students going hungry. When Oh Snap first started in 2013 they found that students were unable to meet the requirements to have CalFresh because they were students. CalFresh is a federal program that gives people monthly electronic assistance to buy most groceries at grocery stores. Now Oh Snap is helping students apply for CalFresh.

When Oh Snap first opened they had over 1,000 students visit the pantry for their first time and over 1,900 visits from students overall, reports the Oh Snap website.

Oh Snap is funded by many sources including the CalFresh grant, Associated Students, IRA funds (student fees), College of Professional Studies and fundraising campaigns like the holiday canned food drive. The College of Professional Studies pays for some of the student employees at Oh Snap and CalFresh pays for the rest. The IRA and the Associated Students help pay for the food.

Acquiring food addresses part of the problem. Oh Snap has free cooking classes and demonstrations to help show students that they can make easy and healthy meals at home for cheap and has a farm stand during the harvest seasons for students to get free healthy vegetables.

“I would like a commercial kitchen to teach people how to make healthy meals,” Friedman said. “I would like to expand our farm stand to twice a week.”

But more is needed, say advocates for students struggling to meet basic needs.

“I would like HSU to support and advocate for students experiencing food and housing difficulties in whatever way is feasibly possible,” said Barnes.





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