‘I am so afraid of being homeless’: Students vacate dorms amid campus closure

BY ANNISTON WEBER
PHOTOS BY ALLIE SCHWEIZER
VIDEO BY KERISA BROWN

*Update — the anonymous student in this story informed TMN they have been granted permission to stay in the residence halls until Friday*

On Monday, Fort Hays State University canceled all on-campus classes through Friday in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. FHSU will resume classes virtually after spring break on March 30.

In addition to classes being canceled, Fort Hays announced that FHSU students who reside in on-campus residence halls must vacate their rooms by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Since the original plan was to have students vacate the dorms by Friday, this sudden change dramatically affects some of the on-campus residents.

The prospect of homelessness is real for some individuals today.

”If I cannot arrange a ride or get an extension, I will be homeless,” Anthony Strickling said. “I have no vehicle to even move my things to a hotel or storage facility. I was stressed when the deadline was one week, but now that I have less than a day, this has intensified that stress exponentially.”

In the email sent to all faculty and students, Fort Hays addresses the complication students may face when being required to leave so suddenly.

“Obviously, not all students will be able to [leave campus],” the email said. “We will continue to work through the Residential Life team to accommodate students.”

Strickling, however, is unsure if his reasoning for needing to stay is sufficient.

“They’re having you fill out a Google Form if you want to stay,” he said. “I completed that and I am still waiting on a response. My options are severely limited.”

In order to move out on time, Strickling said he would be compromising the schedules of others.

“I would be forcing others to take off of work and make an eight hour round trip in less than a day,” he said. “I understand the health concerns and want everyone to be safe, but asking for all of your students to vacate the dorms in one day is ludicrous at best. One week was at least time to make arrangements, but this is too short of notice.”

A student who wishes to remain anonymous said they desperately need housing since they cannot return home.

“I have a very toxic situation back home,” the student said. “If I leave, I’ll be put in a potentially dangerous environment. I tried to appeal to the Residential Life and Student Housing department, but they asked me to provide proof of my situation. How do you provide proof for something like that?”

The student added that they have been in search of a temporary place to stay since the first announcement.

“All of my friends are moving too,” the student said. “I feel like I am running around like crazy asking people to help me. I don’t know how long this is going to last. I am so afraid of being homeless.”

Luis Valencia said he is afraid of returning home because some of his family members are immunocompromised.

“I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Many of us put in stay requests due to family problems or immunity problems and were denied. From what I understand, the University has barely been in contact with the res life staff. I know a ton of RA’s were left with unanswered questions.”

Valencia, who is heavily involved with the FHSU Music Department, said his classmates and professors are banding together to help students during this confusing time.

“Professors from our department are offering their homes and guest bedrooms to students who can’t afford to go home,” he said. “Also, many professors are making this online transition as easy as possible. Before even telling us what software they planned to use, they made sure they figured out who had what resources and adjusted accordingly.”

In addition to professors extending a helping hand, local groups, on-campus or otherwise, are offering support for students who need to quickly move.

Pro Movers KS offered their moving services and equipment free of charge for students leaving the dorms.

“You all have been so amazing to us, so we would just like to pay it forward,” they said on a post to their Facebook page.

Pro Movers KS can be reached on their Facebook page or by calling 785-246-5000.

Us 4 U, an FHSU religious organization, said it is offering resources to help students with the current situation.

“If you are needing resources during this transition to online learning, (such as help finding new housing, help moving out of the dorms, food insecurity concerns, someone to pray with, etc.), please reach out,” the organization said on their Facebook page.

To contact Us 4 U, visit their Facebook page or email us4u.fhsu@gmail.com.

Valencia, however, is looking on the bright side of things. He said he is proud of the community coming together to help students and other individuals in need.

“Students coming together to help each other really proves how the students make the university,” he said.

For additional questions regarding campus housing, contact Residential Life at srl@fhsu.edu or call 785-628-4245. 

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