Homelessness, Hunger, and “The WVU Rack”

Though there isn’t enough adequate national data to support this claim, Barbara Duffield, policy director at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) says she believes the number of homeless students has increased over the last few years.

“The Free Application for Federal Student Aid tells the NAEHCY that there are 58,000 homeless students on campuses nationwide.” -USA Today



As a student myself, it is very hard for me to believe that there are homeless kids who attend WVU, or any other college for that matter. Discovering that an estimated 58,000 students are homeless across the nation is truly alarming. Since some schools aren’t required to keep track of the exact numbers of homeless students, that count would probably increase by quite a lot if they were diligently recorded.

What we don’t realize is that poverty can hide anywhere and can easily go unnoticed. Some students may be too embarrassed to speak up about being homeless or not having enough money for meals each day, while some may not know that their are resources out there to aid them in times of struggle. Depriving your body of enough food day after day can potentially lead to health issues and even hospital trips.

Inspired by other campuses like UCLA, WVU decided to bring “The WVU Rack” to students who may be homeless or hungry. Since “The Rack” (as most people call it) was first set up in the Fall of 2010, WVU has been contacted by staff members from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. out of pure curiosity about the pantry.

As seen above in the video, what once was a somewhat bare shelf in 2010 has grown to a whole new level. “The Rack”, which is tucked away in a small hallway in the Mountainlair, is available to all students to utilize. No one is ever turned away, all that is asked is to sign your first name on the clipboard attached to the rack to keep a record of how many people are using it. It is fully stocked all year long through charitable acts of the Greek community, as well as by staff and student donations.

Items typically donated include:

  • cans of soup
  • Ramen noodles
  • fruit cups
  • poptarts
  • water bottles
  • toiletries

…and so much more.

For more information visit sos.wvu.edu

If you would like to donate to The Rack, you may contact Jacqueline Dooley at the Student Organizations Services office at (304) 293-4397 or Jaqueline.Dooley@mail.wvu.edu.


8 thoughts on “Homelessness, Hunger, and “The WVU Rack”

  1. I’m glad you did this post, Karlea. Homelessness and poverty (not poverty in the sense that everyone claims to be a poor college student; I mean not being able to afford basic needs) among college students is a bigger problem than many people realized. I never thought about it until I met a student who was homeless for a period of time (though I did not meet her until after she found residence), and I learned about how hard it was to have to eat the cheapest things she could get and find a new place to stay every night. It’s good that the university offers assistance for students facing these problems.

  2. As a local adjunct professor, I’ve had more than one homeless student. My most recent was working at a fast food restaurant and couch surfing while taking a full-time course load as a first-year student.

    Part of the problem is that the federal financial aid for first-year students covers only a little bit more than tuition and fees. It’s not enough to live on.

    At least in in Monongalia county, no assistance is available from the WV Department of Health and Human Resources (e.g., food assistance, medical cards, housing, etc.) because it’s presumed that financial aid covers those necessities.

    In addition, students from families who don’t traditionally go to college are not usually aware of things like deadlines for dormitory housing. So, they’re often shut out of that whole process because they missed the deadline, even when they’re eligible.

    Sadly, when I reported my most recent homeless student to the school, no one from the school ever followed up with them, or returned their calls. No assistance was forthcoming.

  3. It’s easy to make the assumption that those with the means to attend college automatically have easy access to basic necessities like food and shelter. This post, however, illustrates that isn’t the case.

    I’ve personally never been acquainted with a homeless college student, but it’s nice to know that some actions are being taken to assist those who are in this unfortunate situation.

  4. I really like this post because the Rack isn’t very well known among WVU students. One thing that I’d like to add is that any WVU student can go; you don’t have to be couch-surfing or unable to pay rent. It’s available for all students because, indeed, we can all use at least a little help.

    I also like how this is related to Maddi’s post from this week. This is a good story to end the semester.

  5. I’ve never heard of the Rack until I read this post, so I do hope the organization does receive more recognition. I do agree that homelessness is not always easily identifiable, but it is a serious issue especially in Morgantown so great job identifying it.

  6. Not many people know about the Rack. I do because of being in a non profit beat for WVU News. But a ton of people on campus don’t know and you did a good job outlining what they do. They have grown as an organization so much since 2010 and it’s easy to see the advances they’ve made since that video (2011) was made. Great post!

  7. Wow, I didn’t even know “The Rack” was a thing before reading this. I suppose on some level I realized that homeless students must be in WVU somewhere, I never really thought about how many students that might be. Great post.

  8. Interesting, and a well-written lede (although I wouldn’t have minded a local voice in there). One thing about The Rack: It would have been nice to have a quick sentence explaining what it is. Yes, I can click the video, but as always (say it with me), I Shouldn’t Have To.

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