At the Holidays, University Officials Realized: Some Students Don't Have a Home to Go Home To

"Skylar Maldonado has a holiday wish. 'I'm hoping to find some peace of mind,' he said. So does his friend Patricia Curley. 'I'm just hoping not to have a day filled with sadness,' she said," The Washington Post reports. "Most college students are eager for winter break, happy to go home and celebrate the end of the year holidays with family and friends. Campuses become ghost towns as final exams wrap up. But for a few students — those who spent their childhood in foster care, or whose homes are unstable or dangerous, or who lived in shelters before enrolling in college — shuttered dorms present an urgent problem."

"So at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, a dorm remains open for a small group of students such as Curley and Maldonado, who will spend their holidays at the most stable home they know.

Some colleges don’t allow exceptions to campus housing calendars, shutting dorms for maintenance or security reasons during breaks. Others allow for some discretion. 'Special considerations are taken into account, and the university seeks to make accommodations for students experiencing hardship or homelessness,' Jessica Jennings, a University of Maryland spokeswoman, said.

'We would never leave somebody out in the cold,' said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, and the school has allowed students in extreme circumstances to stay in conference housing over breaks.

But the goal is to help students become self-sufficient, she said. And most campuses 'are pretty lonely, cold places on the break,' she said, with dining halls closed, the heat turned down. 'No one’s around — it’s a little spooky, almost.' So administrators prefer to find a place where students can be safe and warm, she said, with some kind of community.

Some states are forming networks to ensure university officials are aware of ways to help, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. 'For some colleges, it’s not on their radar,' said Marcy Stidum, who runs a program at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. 'Unlike in K-12, there is no funding or mandate to provide these students any type of support.' And many people still think of all college students as privileged, she said."

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Publication Date: 1/2/2018

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