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

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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.

Homelessness in Morgantown: Everyone’s Problem

The issue of homelessness in Morgantown, W.Va. is not a secret. If you walk down High Street at anytime of the day or night, you’re likely to be asked if you could spare some change. This is a small piece of the issue that we see before our eyes, but there is much more to the story than this. You may be surprised to know how much the growing homeless population in Morgantown impacts your life.   homeless in morgantown

Photo courtesy of MountaineerNewsService.com

According to WDTV, the homeless population in Morgantown grew by 30 percent just last year. The cold weather and holidays may have some of us thinking of the less fortunate, but it’s not just the people you see on the streets that are in need of help.

Beyond the stereotype:

  • The primary cause of homelessness in Morgantown is lack of affordable housing.
  • The majority of people experiencing homelessness in the community are not visible like the people we see on the streets.
  • The majority of homeless people in the community are working at least part time.
  • Families with children are the fastest growing portion of the homeless population in Morgantown.

According to the Morgantown Homelessness Task Force, “The immediate impact of homelessness is, of course, on those who find themselves without a place to live. However, this problem also affects the quality of life for all in our community. The costs of homelessness are not just borne by those who directly experience homelessness. Everyone pays at least some of the personal, health, social, economic and governmental costs of homelessness because of the demand upon, and cost of, police, health and other public services.”

As the temperature drops each day, you may be asking now more than ever, what is being done to address this growing issue?

  • In September, Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller announced more than $23 million in federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for community development, affordable housing, and homelessness prevention and relief in West Virginia.
  • The Homelessness Task Force is a creation of the Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission.  Its goal is to address homelessness and vagrancy in Morgantown and the surrounding metropolitan area.
  • The City of Morgantown Community Development Office administrates annual grant monies from the federal government with the goal of providing decent housing, a suitable living environment and expanded economic opportunities.
  • Multidisciplinary Unsheltered Homeless Relief Outreach: Morgantown (MUSHROOM) is a medical student outreach to homeless people in Morgantown. Every two weeks, medical students with faculty physicians make rounds on the streets to find the homeless to give medical care and food.
  • Homeless Shelters and clothing places such as Christian Help offer the less fortunate food, shelter and a temporary peace of mind.

The actions being taken and institutions being created are a start, but there is a large misconception among residents in town of what it truly means to be homeless in this area. The sooner we realize that the majority of homeless people are not the ones we see begging for money on High Street, the better. We need to realize that a majority of this population is made up of families and people who are working. If housing is so expensive that a working mother or father can’t afford to put a roof over their child’s head, that’s something that should concern us all.

Black Friday Cheat Sheet: Morgantown and Beyond

Black Friday can be a wild experience, but if you’re up for the task, it can be well worth it.

First you need to decide if Black Friday shopping is for you. (I mean really think it through.) If there isn’t a particular item you have in mind, it probably isn’t worth going. Black Friday isn’t the time to go browsing. However, if you have a plan, know what you’re going to buy and don’t eat too much turkey beforehand, you can master Black Friday. Here’s your cheat sheet:

The Morgantown Mall:

Select stores in the mall will be opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. This includes Aeropostale, American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, PacSun, JC Penney, Elder-Beerman, Journeys, Spencer’s and Charlotte Russe among many others. Finish Line, Forever 21, Radio Shack and the GAP will be opening at midnight with Christopher and Banks, GNC and Francesca’s opening at 6 a.m. The rest of the mall will open at 8 a.m. on Black Friday. (Click here to read the full listing.) Plan accordingly!

University Town Center:

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Image from Target.com. This is the best price for the iPad Air, however, Walmart is having the best deal for the iPad Mini.

The Town Center holds many of the big-name department stores that will be having great deals on Black Friday. For example, Target is a major player on Black Friday. They even have a pre-Black Friday sale going on now. For the real deal though, check out their advertisement for Black Friday. Some of the best deals include a Nintendo 3DS for only $149.99, an iPad Air for $479 with a $100 Target gift card and an Xbox Kinect bundle for $189.99.

Walmart is another major Black Friday hub. If you’re wanting to get an iPad Mini, this is the best place to purchase it. They’re on sale for $299 and include a $100 Walmart gift card. Other great deals include a $29 HP printer and some great prices on TVs (see below). Walmart is having a special this Black Friday where you’re guaranteed certain items at the sale price so long as you pick up a wristband between the allotted time (which varies per product). Don’t forget, they’ll price match everything, too. (Pssst.. don’t forget there’s another Walmart in Morgantown! This one might be less busy.)

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Image from Walmart.com. Here are just a few of the great prices on TVs.

Best Buy is the third big one in the Town Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but there will be special doorbusters throughout the evening. Great deals include an Xbox 360 bundle worth $399.95 for only $189.99, discounted DVDs (between $1.99 and $9.99, originally $2.99 to $59.99) and $200 savings on HP Intel laptops. Keep in mind, though, you need to have a ticket for all doorbusters.

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Image from best buy.com. Save $200 on HP Intel laptops!

Unfortunately, Morgantown doesn’t have all the best deals. If you’re serious about savings, travel up to Pennsylvania to get great deals (and get out of paying sales tax on clothing!)

Tanger Outlets:

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Image form Tanger Outlets. Get 20 and 30 percent off when you download the savings card.

Tanger Outlets in Washington, Pa. is just a short drive from Morgantown. It opens at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Download the bonus card to save 20 percent from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., and save 30 percent from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. Additionally, individual stores are having some great deals on their own, too! If you want to avoid the Black Friday rush, they’ll be having deals all weekend.

The Mall at Robinson:

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Image from the Mall at Robinson’s Facebook page.

Located in Robinson Town Center, Pa., the Mall at Robinson is a fairly short drive from Morgantown, too. The mall is hosting an event, Shop Like a Rockstar starting at midnight with gift card giveaways and freebies.

The mall includes a Macy’s, Banana Republic, Sears, (a really awesome) Forever 21, JC Penney and Buckle among many others.

With this guide, a little planning and a lot of patience, Black Friday can be a success. Good luck, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

A Diverse Look at WVU: Susmita Patel

Traveling miles from home to go to college can be taxing on anyone, especially when it’s internationally. As I discussed in my last post, West Virginia University has many clubs and organizations based solely around diversity and students of different cultural backgrounds. One of those clubs is called the Indian Students Association, or as members like to call it, ISA. The association is very active and includes about 400 students, often having dinners as well as get-togethers.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 52 PM

“The goal of the association is to provide a congenial atmosphere for the student community from India.”

I had the pleasure of speaking to a former member of the ISA here at WVU, Susmita Patel, as she clued me in on happenings of the association. Aside from helping to put on different dance performances for Tarang, Diwali, diversity week, Indian Independence Day and other student organizations, Patel says there is much more to the association than performing dances.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 47 PM

Luckily she has never felt out of place or discriminated against in Morgantown, and even expressed that no one she knows has felt that way either. A culture shock upon first stepping foot into Morgantown seemed rather normal and exciting to her, though some international students might not be as excited. Although it may seem extremely diverse to a typical student, international students may feel like there is nobody to call “friend” or even “family.”

Student organizations like the ISA take control as soon as these students get off of the plane from India. They do so by picking them up from the airport and arranging a place to live, and even easing them into other school activities. These student associations create somewhat of a niche for all students to form their home away from home, giving them a sense of security and people to hang out with that they can trust.Photo Nov 22, 12 56 49 PM

Patel went on to tell me that every semester the ISA helps the new students from India to integrate into the social norms of the United States, especially if it’s their first time being here. It can be very scary, and can cause feelings of disorientation. To help with the transition, ISA holds an event called Freshers that acts as a type of icebreaker among the existing and new students.

“Freshers is very helpful, especially because they can find their place amongst potential friends, this way no one feels out of place or like that have to change themselves to fit in.”

The Freshers party is a huge way to combat feelings of not fitting in. The current students show the ins and outs, regarding social norms or even school work. Both parties, new students and old, benefit from each other during this process making integration much simpler.

American-born students still hold to the cultures and traditions of their ethnic backgrounds, though they may not completely understand the real cultural meaning behind some of the traditions, like language. This is Photo Nov 22, 12 56 40 PMwhere the international students can really help the more Americanized students in understanding their culture. On the other hand, the American students help the international students to lighten up and have a little fun, teaching them to become more outgoing and to open up socially.

Diversity clearly affects everyone in a positive way. Let’s hope we can show our loving spirit over the next few years and welcome even more international students to the Mountaineer family!

If you or someone you know would like to connect with ISA members, visit their Facebook page!

-All photos from Susmita Patel.

Parking in Morgantown: a Bitter College-Town Problem

It’s no secret that parking in Morgantown is terrible. With a growing population (outward–ahem, the sprawl of West Run) there is a serious lack of parking. Because of this, it’s also no surprise that the towing companies are sketchy in this area.

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The good news is there are some people and groups trying to fix these problems.

  • Shannon Martin, a Morgantown native and sophomore at West Virginia University is working on extending the amount of time you can park at the meter. It varies by location in Morgantown, but the maximum time is typically 10 hours. Considering Morgantown’s demographics (a large college-age population) and tourism in the area, this rule is inconvenient for students and visitors. Between move-in day for students, home football games and other attractions that bring tourists to our hometown, parking in Morgantown has a large impact. Martin is currently working on a petition to extend these hours.
  • SALA recently had a “Know Your Rights” campaign to raise awareness of towing companies breaking the rules. Check out this recent article about Ben Seebaugh’s experience with the towing companies around here.
  • The City of Morgantown is trying–really! With the Morgantown Parking Authority, the City of Morgantown featured a parking spot of the week this past summer, though they stopped in July. (They do have a decent, up-to-date map on the site that’s pretty helpful.) The Parking Authority also lets you pay citations online now, which is very convenient for students.
  • WVU is helping, too. (Here’s a handy map they made!) On Sundays they have a little-known shopping shuttle that goes out to the mall and the University Town Center so you don’t have to make the drive. Similar to the City of Morgantown, they let you pay WVU parking tickets online, too.

Keep in mind you don’t necessarily need your car in Morgantown, anyway (here’s looking at you, incoming freshmen!) Though it is rickety, the PRT  is a great alternative to driving around Morgantown. Mountain Line is another great option for going back and forth among campuses. The Caperton Trail (known as the Rail Trail) is another great way to get around Morgantown that’s healthy and fun. Additionally, all of these are free for students (you don’t even have to pay for gasoline!)

Riding the PRT is a great way to travel around Morgantown! (Though arguably, this video is terrifying.)

video from West Virginia University Transportation and Parking

What are your thoughts on parking in Morgantown?

A diverse look at WVU: Intro

For many students, feeling like they belong or “fit” in with others may be the key to surviving a crazy college town like West Virginia University. Not everyone shares the same thoughts and feelings when it comes to somehow fitting in. For some it comes natural, while others like to focus on school, and some just focusing on how to learn to party. But what do the students do who are simply set out to find people that share the same values or ethnic background as them?

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This photo from the Diversity page on the WVU website captures one of the many performances held during the Diversity Week.

Schools like Connecticut College, Ohio State University, The University of Texas and many others offer and support diverse cultural or ethnic organizations for students and staff. These organizations provide an environment where students can participate in discussions on diversity issues and their ways of life, all while gaining a sense of inclusion and social belonging. Also, colleges like WVU have formed diverse clubs and organizations, along with offering programs and different courses that aim to educate students of different ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs.

According to the Center for American Progress, there are 10 reasons why we need diversity on college campuses:

  1. Our nation is changing, and our higher education institutions need to reflect this diversity.
  2. While communities of color have made great strides in closing the education gap, disparities in higher education remain prevalent.
  3. It’s in our national interest to invest in our future workforce.
  4. Diversity in the workforce fosters innovation and competitiveness in business.
  5. Fortune 500 companies agree that diversity is good for the bottom line.
  6. Diversity is a national security issue.
  7. Diversity on campus benefits all students.
  8. The implications of race-neutral policies in educational opportunities are detrimental to the next generation.
  9. Research shows that race-neutral policies simply don’t work.
  10. The majority of Americans support race-conscious policies in higher education.

The original article explains these 10 listed reasons in much greater detail.

WVU's student enrollment by race/ethnicity according to Forbes.com

WVU’s student enrollment by race/ethnicity according to Forbes.com

Here at WVU there seems to be little diversity, yet the school makes it a point to set aside a whole week focused on issues students from different backgrounds may face. Every day of the week has a specific schedule for each diverse event or theme. Diversity Week includes a wide range of performances, discussions, learning opportunities for students to participate in, and even poetry readings by students and faculty. Whether you are a member of the club presenting or even of the same ethnicity as them, everyone is always welcome including family and friends!

In a Chanel 5 News interview, WVU Chief Diversity Officer David Fryson said, “We’re hoping the type of things we do here will spur the rest of the state to see the value of diversity. So often when you think about diversity you think about our differences, but diversity is the collection of similarities and differences.”

Students and faculty who possess different backgrounds present each other with new perspectives and viewpoints. I feel that adding diversity to your life will only make you a stronger member of society and a more well-rounded global communicator. Diversity helps to enhance discussions during class and even outside of class, which can easily aid in preparation for students to ease into this extremely multicultural world we live in.

The Mountaineer family always sticks together no matter what ethnicity you may be– “There’s a place for you at WVU.”

Make sure to check back in next Friday when I will dig a little deeper into this WVU diversity discussion. I will be telling the story of a recent WVU graduate, Susmita Patel, who actively participated in an ethnic organization while attending school. I will discuss her thoughts on discrimination and how these WVU student groups help international students cope!

More to Morgantown

There’s more to Morgantown than fraternities, fires and football. While many West Virginia University students consider it temporary living, many families call Morgantown home.

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Hazel Ruby McQuain Park along the Rail Trail. Many residents choose to live in Morgantown for the gorgeous natural beauty and the benefits of living in a town with a fantastic economic position (like the rail trail along the Monongahela River).

Whether students realize it or not, they affect the greater Morgantown area significantly. House parties in South Park are just a few blocks away from the local high school. Monongalia County schools often dismiss their students early when there’s game-day traffic. Families live on those streets where couches are burned. Morgantown residents know the students very well, but the students rarely take the time to meet the residents. Morgantown boasts great diversity in its landscape, buildings and people, and there are a lot of folks worth getting to know.

Karyn Mock Hoskinson has lived in Morgantown since she was 6 months old. She loved it so much, she never left. She got a job with WVU Healthcare working at Ruby Memorial Hospital and raised her daughter, Hannah here.

Mock Hoskinson lives by the Mountaineer Mall, also known as the “old mall.” This area has changed a lot within the past decade or so. It used to hold a Walmart, Elder Beerman, a Gabriel Brothers among many other shops. Today it holds some offices for Mylan Pharmaceuticals and a few smaller businesses.

The change has really affected where Mock Hoskinson shops. Obviously, there aren’t many stores right next door anymore, and due to urban sprawl in the growing Morgantown area, she can no longer walk to where she needs to go.

“It is depressing that we build things and then stop using them,” she said.

Mock Hoskinson does love Morgantown, though. She enjoys the culture and diversity the university brings along with being able to live in the same city as her daughter, a current WVU student. She also loves the size of the college town.

“It is small, but not too small. It is small enough to know people and see them when you are out, but not so small that people are constantly in your business.”

Jenny and Nathan Wilson are two other locals in the area that love Morgantown, too. Along with their son, Evan, they have their own jazz band: the Jenny Wilson Trio. They play concerts at local venues like Black Bear, the Pines Country Club and more. Nathan was even recently featured on America’s Got Talent.

The Wilsons have been living in Morgantown for about 11 years.

“Morgantown has played a role in our success as a couple,” Nathan said.

“We love to go to Coopers Rock and go out on the lake and walk to the library. It’s very romantic,” Jenny said.

Although they love Morgantown, they admit it’s not perfect.

“I don’t appreciate the trash. There are little areas of town that just look like hell. I mean, just dirty, like garbage everywhere, and it’s depressing to walk through that,” she said.

Even so, Morgantown is home, and it was the perfect place to raise their two children.

“I think when you put all the pieces together that make up Morgantown: the university, the river, Cheat Lake, Coopers Rock, the variety of restaurants, proximity to Pittsburgh, proximity to Washington D.C., the little bit of nature that’s left over from all the developing, you’ve got a pretty nice place to live. It offers you culture, nature, the youthful population which makes it exciting and also an elderly population,” she said.

These are just two examples. Go out and meet the locals. Next time you’re eating dinner at Black Bear, supporting a candidate at a local political rally or just walking downtown, stop and take in where you are. Look at the art, the architecture and ambiance of Morgantown. Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you; you might be surprised they have a Morgantown all their own. Morgantown is an extraordinary place, and like the culture and friendship that defines the town, it is meant to be shared.