More fixes needed for HSU student housing insecurity

By Maddy Harvey
Flapjack staff

College can be one of the most stressful time in a person’s life due to all the deadlines, classes, debt, and everything in between. However, many students have another thing to add to the stress of college, and that’s being homeless.

Cynthia Paredes, a former HSU student, was homeless for a few months her second year attributed this experience to her eventual decision to leave HSU and go back home and transfer.

“My mental health was at it’s worst when I was going through this,” Paredes said, “I was completely empty and didn’t know who I was. I couldn’t be happy in Humboldt anymore. I go to school in SoCal now and I’ve been working on myself and am doing so much better.”

Humboldt State University has quite a bit of a homeless student problem. In fact, 15 percent of students surveyed at HSU have reported to have experienced housing insecurity, according to a report done by Jennifer Macguire of HSU.

This number is concerning considering that the rate of homeless students in the CSU system, that spans 23 universities, averages about 10 percent, as reported by a detailed report on homeless students in the CSU system by Rashida Crutchfield from CSU Long Beach.

Homelessness can have an influence on a  student’s mental well being that can negatively impact how they perform in school and their ability to focus due to increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and other distressing disorders, according to a study done by the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research.

HSU has taken some steps to address the issue and offer some help to students, including hosting housing nights where students can become familiar with how to go about places up for rent and how to fill out the applications, but many agree that there is always more that can be done.

Chanté Catt of the Homeless Student Advocate Alliance, a group on campus that works with and for homeless students, has some simple advice for the school on what they can do about the crisis.

“Quit enrolling people and not matching the available housing to the area,” Catt said, “This is the biggest issue.”

Unfortunately, HSU has not been too responsive to this since they continue to admit a greater number students that they cannot fully support, and has led to a “housing lottery” and long waitlist being used the last couple years since there isn’t enough supply for the demand.

HSU housing administrators were contacted multiple times to respond to these criticism but did not offer comments.

“Honestly I don’t know much of what they’re doing, but I’m sure they know the problem is up in the air,” Catt said, “Individual staff, faculty and professors are helping in many ways and are very supportive.”

For Paredes they didn’t seem to do much when she was put on the waitlist for housing, and didn’t offer her much information on what her situation would be until the school year had already begun.

“They eventually put me in this, like, big room where they put new transfers and overflow housing in the Hill, and they didn’t even give me that option until a week or so into the semester when I had been crashing on the small couch in my friend’s dorm since I had no place else to go,” Paredes said.

On top of that the housing they do offer on campus can be too expensive for many, which is the major reason so many non-freshman students choose to live off campus, even when that can become a greater hassle since the housing market in Arcata is so competitive, and the rent for off campus places just keeps getting raised as well.

Kira Hudson, a graduating senior has been homeless for quite a while and has just accepted that this has become a part of her life.

“They just kept raising my rent and I couldn’t do it anymore and I just became so frustrated,” Hudson said, “I finally just moved out of where I was and ended up living in my car for a few months and now I’m just staying with some friends.”

Hudson’s experience is a great example of how the community members here are so willing to help out their neighbors, but also shows the greater issue of the area taking advantage of the student population and charging them so much for housing and getting away with it because they need a roof over our heads and don’t want to have to travel too far from campus.

This community based effort is something that Humboldt is known for, and it’s really great, since sometimes the only thing that can be done in the moment is to just to help out your neighbor.

It should also be noted that the students have more power than they know to make a change and demand better resources and options, there is strength in numbers.

“It’s up to the students to make the changes. That’s what really matters,” Catt said.

 

HSU students compete for off-campus housing

By Skye Hopkins
Flapjack staff

Finding off campus housing is not an easy task in any college town, especially for freshman whom have never had to go through a process like this one. Most students want to live off campus after their first year, however some are not ready and prefer to stay on campus. Several housing fairs provide useful tools for students looking to move out on their own; but unfortunately some just get luckier than others.

“We saw the post 20 minutes after it was posted, emailed the landlord, went to a showing of the house, and found ourselves signing the lease within five days,” Cheyenne Janger said.

Janger, 19, is a first year student from San Diego who is currently living on campus. Although living on campus is extremely convenient, Janger feels that there are more negatives than positives.

“I had mixed feelings,” Janger said. “It was cool to meet a bunch of new people from different places, but the lack of freedom, privacy, and not knowing how things would turnout with your roommates made things a little stressful.”

Janger didn’t get so lucky with her on campus housing situation, but many would say her off campus housing situation will make up for it. She currently lives in a triple room in one of the eight buildings of HSUs Canyon housing. Being randomly assigned with one or more other students can be exciting and cool until you don’t get along with either of them.

Three students confined to a room smaller than the average one-person bedroom can be very hectic, and for Janger it was. One of her roommates is a slob, and the other does not communicate with her because her sexual preference is not respected. Unfortunately, it has been her yearlong room situation that has put reassurance into her decision about moving on her own next year.

“Growing up!” Janger said. “I am ready to grow up, move off campus, and start the next chapter in my life.”

With plenty of luck, Janger and her three roommates are ready to move into their four bedroom, two bath house this upcoming June. Before looking at places they made sure they covered the grimy details and eventually decided that they all wanted to live together.

Janger and her roommates were very lucky and satisfied with the way things turned out for them. However, this does not happen to everyone. In fact, most students seriously struggle with finding a place to live after their first year. Countless freshman decide to live on campus for another year or end up having to stay on a friends couch until something opens up.

19-year-old Devin Sanders is a freshman majoring in sociology that has decided to live on campus for one more year after having a few discussions with his parents.

“Overall it is just more convenient,” Sanders said. “It is easier for me to get around.”

Living in Humboldt’s freshman housing was not a favorable thing of Sanders but he seemed to have a much better experience than Janger. Although he was lucky enough to only have one roommate whom he never struggled to get along with, he disliked how often he had to share his personal space with so many other students.

“There were so many people,” Sanders said. “And I hated the bathrooms because there was always throw up in them on the weekends.”

With messy bathrooms and problems around hygiene and personal space most would think someone like Sanders preferred off campus housing, but not this year. He is looking back at his freshman living situation as a good experience and a good way to meet new people, but he is definitely ready to move into Humboldt’s upperclassman, more spacious, College Creek Housing.

Both sides of the after first year housing process are reasonable and make sense for different individuals. Not everyone is ready to completely move out on their own, and not everyone wants to move off campus.

Nicki Viso is the Residence Life Coordinator for the Canyon of on campus housing. She overlooks anything and everything that goes on in the Canyon, whether it be good or bad. She has watched several classes transition in and out of on campus housing and plenty of both positive and negative things to say about it.

“The most positive thing I have seen throughout the years,” Viso said. “Is watching all of the students meet new people and broaden their worldviews, especially with everyone being raised differently.”

Although Viso never lived off campus while working at Humboldt State, she has received plenty of information from her colleagues that remain useful for students seeking moving help. She works hands on with plenty of students and after a full school year she is excited to watch those move on into the next part of their life. However, she does believe that there are those few students that may be better off with another year on campus.

“It is just that 5 percent that does whatever they want and they end up wasting their time here along with potentially harming others time here,” Viso said.

Plenty of students stay in on campus housing and even more refuse to do anything but live off campus for the next year.

Although Janger and Sander’s current housing situations differ, they are both fairly fortunate and happy about their homes for next year.

And as far as those still looking for housing or thinking about what they need to do when they look next year, Janger has some advice.

“Remain persistent and keep your eyes open, because most of this process is pure luck,” Janger said.

The HOP to HOOP – Creating On-Campus Orientation for Transfer Students

By Grace Becker
Flapjack staff

After a long year at college, the first week students spend on campus seems a long way in the past. The impact of that first week, however, has the potential to be very influential on the success of a student’s time at HSU.

John Barajas is a transfer student here at HSU. A graduating senior, Barajas has been working over the last two semesters to advocate for and create an on-campus orientation program for transfer students at HSU.

“My experience with orientation wasn’t what I was expecting, and isn’t what I think I or other transfer students need. We don’t know the area just like freshmen don’t know the area, and for most of us it’s our first time at a University too. I think it’s important for transfer students to get the same information when they decide to come here,” Barajas said.

Freshman entering Humboldt State for the first time get a vastly different experience than transfer students. The week before classes start, freshman students get the full HOP experience, exploring the campus with other freshman and learning about the resources available to them during their time at Humboldt State.

Transfer students, on the other hand, don’t get the same level of attention. Over the summer, incoming transfer students do online training with the Humboldt Online Orientation Program (HOOP). It takes a few hours to go through, and while it does provide information about resources and issues at Humboldt State, some transfer students have found issue with the level of attention paid to transfer students.

“You do HOOP over the summer,” Barajas explained. “By the time I was on-campus, three months after I did the online orientation, I had pretty much forgotten everything HOOP told me. And there were some things I wish I knew about that HOOP didn’t even touch.”

Barajas has lived on campus since he arrived in Fall 2014. He was placed in freshman housing, and while he doesn’t regret living there and is still friends with some of the people he met living there, he wishes that he had been able to meet and live with people closer in age to him.

“It would have been nice to have been able to connect with older students, especially other transfer students,” Barajas said. “And I know other transfers feel the same. Having an on-campus orientation for them could really help with that.”

As it turns out, the campus is listening to students like Barajas. The HOP office is currently working to create time and space for transfer students to attend an on-campus orientation like freshman do. Nick Conlin is the Coordinator for Orientation and New Student Programs here at HSU and has been working with Barajas and other students to integrate transfer students into HOP.

“We’re seeing a lot more transfer students enter HSU,” Conlin said. “We’re working to try to provide them the resources they need to be successful here on campus.”

Creating a transfer-specific orientation is a lot of work, something Barajas and fellow transfer student Cat Garibay know very well. Recently they’ve sat down with Conlin to help provide information about what kinds of things transfer students would want and need at an orientation.

“You can’t just give them the same things freshman get,” Garibay explained. “Yeah, info about resources and campus tours could be the same or similar, but transfer students have different things they care about or that pertain to them.”

These things include more career-orientated mentoring, mingling with older students, and attention to detail about mental health and addiction problems.

“It’s going to be a long process,” Barajas said. “But I hope it will really pay off in the end.”

 

 

 

 

 

Living off the grid in the hills of Southern Humboldt

By Cody Centeno
Flapjack staff

In order to live off the grid – without PG&E, provided water, etc. – you have to be willing to put in a lot of work to get things that come easily when you are on the grid. For instance, instead of just turning on your electric heater, you might have to build a fire with wood that you had to gather and cut yourself. This article was written to help readers better understand what life is like when you are off the grid, and to help understand why people would want to live this way.

Charles Watson live in Piercy, California, a small town about 80 miles south of Arcata, with a population under 200. Piercy is smack dab in the middle of the Emerald Triangle, where Humboldt and Mendocino counties meet on Highway 101. Watson has lived off-the-grid in the area for over 40 years. He gets his water from a natural spring.

“First, you have to find a viable spring,” Watson said. “Then, I build a small dam that still allows the stream to continue flowing, but also catches enough water for me. I fill up the area where the water will be with small gravel, which will filter the water slightly.”

Once you have this small dam in place, he says that you run your water line from there to your water tanks, but it isn’t always so simple.

“If your spring is above your tanks, you will usually be able to benefit from the gravity flow,” Watson said. “But, if your tanks are above your spring, you will have to buy a water pump to get the water to it.”

From your tanks, you run your water through a pipeline to your house. Again, Watson said that the gravity flow aspect is important. He also talked about keeping a spare water tank.

“We have a spare tank on our property, just in case the spring slows down in the summer time,” Watson said. “If it does slow down, we can use a water pump to bring in water to the house from our spare tank while the primary tanks slowly fill up again.”

Piercy resident Patrick Landergen has owned his property since 2004. He heats his home with a wood stove in the winter.

“During the summertime, I have to cut wood for burning during the winter,” Landergen said. “When I’m out looking for wood, I try to take trees that are already fallen instead of killing a healthy tree.”

He must cut each tree in to “rounds” using his chainsaw, which are 12-14 inch long sections of the log, and then split them with a maul, which is a slightly dulled axe with a head that gets thicker from front to back.

“Once you find or cut a tree, you cut it in to rounds with your saw, and split it down small enough to fit in the woodstove with a maul,” Landergen said. “If the wood is wet, I let it dry out for the rest of the summer, and once it’s dry, I take it home and stack it until the winter.”

He also made it clear that he has a favorite kind of wood to burn.

“Madrone is all the I burn,” Landergen said. “Out of tanoak, fur, and everything else that I have tried, nothing burns as evenly or clean as the madrone does. When I burn tanoak, I have to clean my chimney out once every to weeks. With madrone, it is once per month.”

When it comes to powering your home, one common option in the hills of Humboldt is a diesel generator. That’s what Dan Bittick, a Southern Humboldt resident since the 1980s by his account, uses.

“Installing and running a generator is not necessarily easy,” Bittick said. ” You have the cost of the generator, the batteries and the inverter.My current power system cost me over $12,000 and many hours of labor, but that’s still cheaper than having PG&E run power lines up here.”

Aside from the initial setup, which is a lot of work wiring things in, burying wire, and doing other things, you have to maintain the generator throughout its life as well.

“I change my oil every month, and I also have to keep an eye on things like the fuel filter, solenoids, and diodes. How often you maintain your generator usually depends on how many hours you run it for per day,” Bittick said. “I run mine for eight hours per day, and oil changes every month have kept my generator running for over 10 years now. With the right care, you can make these things last decades.”

Those who live off-the-grid agreed that it is very rewarding to be able to produce for yourself with little to no help from the outside world.

HSU students in Arcata face difficult housing hunt

By Jacob George
Flapjack staff

Crammed between a thin hallway, Alexander Hain pushes his way through a sea of wide eyed, bustling college students, in search of the master bedroom. The chaotic scene around him is similar to your average weekend rager, but far from what Hain expected when he went to check out a listing for an open house on Clover Way in Arcata. Humboldt State Freshman, 19-year-old Hain, has been searching the Arcata area for a house to live in for his sophomore year at Humboldt State since early April, with no luck.

“I tried to get a jump-start on the house, but I guess so did everybody else,” Hain said. “Every open house I’ve gone to in April was packed with people from school.”

Hain expressed his frustration with the “shot in the dark” approach he is forced to take whenever he applies as a local tenant, along with the financial burden.

“They want us to pay $20 each for an application fee, then tell us there’s over 30 people applying to the same house, so not to get our hopes up,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”

One of the best things Arcata has to offer is the small tight-knit community, but local students are running out of places to live. According to US News and World Report, 91 percent of Humboldt State students live off campus, which means roughly 7,500 students compete in the local housing market each year. Since 2010, Humboldt States total enrollment has gone up by nearly 1,500 students, a sharp increase for such a small community and housing market. This statistic is also worrisome due to the fact that the odds are often, in fact, always against the student applicant. Often with no credit, little job history, and a lack of references, students are often chosen last by property owners and realtors to sign or pick up leases. Students are usually forced to rely on a co-signer to even give them a chance for consideration.

As the end of the spring semester at Humboldt State approaches, students find themselves in a frantic frenzy between the months of April and June to secure a place to live for the following semester, before it’s too late.

Carma Day, an employee at Humboldt Property Management in Arcata, explained just how tight the window is for students who are looking to sign a lease.

“It’s good to start looking in April to be safe,” Day said. “May should be fine too but it’ll start getting more limited. June you’re cutting it close and by July everything’s locked up.”

She continued to note how things have gotten noticeably more competitive in the past few years, especially this one.

“This is the worst I’ve seen it, in terms of total availability,” she said. “At this point last year I had at least five or six houses opening up, right now I only have one in Arcata that’s over two bedrooms”

Nearby McKinleyville and Eureka’s housing situations are far from ideal as well, and require students to commute to school by car or bus, which students often either don’t have access to, or don’t have the time to spend multiple hours at the bus stop.

The city of Arcata has just under 9,500 households, to house a population of just over 21,000 residents, according to demographics listed at Point2homes.com. 62 percent of these are non-family households, while the other 38 percent belongs to families. Even when factoring the few apartment complexes into equation, the numbers clearly indicate that there is more people than the city can comfortably house. This, along with rising rent prices, has even led to a homelessness problem among students. Research done in The City of Arcata Homeless Services Plan indicates that the city of Arcata accounts for nearly 16 percent of Humboldt county’s homeless population, second only to Eureka at a Staggering 56 percent. Although it is hard to draw a direct correlation between the limited housing and the homelessness percentage, one could make a strong argument that it is a key factor.

Some are benefiting from the small, competitive housing market that Arcata offers. Property owner Randy Dodd and his wife Susan own multiple properties in across the Bay Area and Humboldt County, including in Eureka and Arcata. The two of them reside in Pleasanton, California, half way between San Francisco and San Jose, but make regular trips to Humboldt county to manage their property.

“I couldn’t have had to sit on one of the Arcata houses for more than one or two months for as long as we’ve had them,” Randy Dodd said. “Usually the hardest part is looking into and choosing the most qualified applicant for the house.”

Randy Dodd is not at all surprised by the mass number of applicants he averages on each Humboldt County house, or the competition in the small, but highly desired housing market.

“More people, especially the college students are coming in and shopping around the same number of houses as there was 10, 15, 20 years ago,” he said. “You don’t see much new construction going on, but soon maybe that will change.”