Illustration by Sam Papavasiliou

House Hunting in the heat of COVID-19

Housing struggles at Humboldt State continue to be a problem for students
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Housing struggles at Humboldt State continue to be a problem for students

Homelessness at Humboldt State University is a major issue. The mess is only becoming more muddled and students are left to fend for themselves.

Senior at HSU majoring in history, Alfred Silva, is mostly living out of his car. His housing search has been limited because he owns a dog and because he’s a single male, which according to Silva is unattractive to landlords. Not having an address has proven particularly challenging for him.

“I need to take medication all the time,” Silva said. “Now I don’t have anywhere for my medication to be mailed to my house. So, I gotta figure out other ways to get it. I gotta go to the doctor’s office and bug them there and it’s kind of hard.”

Silva has been looking for alternative methods of living including camping, but hasn’t had any luck.

“I can’t find anywhere to camp,” Silvia said. “The only place I found that will allow me to sleep is the back of the HSU parking lot.”

If anything, Silva believes COVID-19 has attracted more people to Humboldt than in past years, and that’s become a big roadblock for him when it comes to finding a home.

“I think the influx of people coming into town right now is just ridiculous,” Silva said. “It’s like you got people that are not even students – many, many, many people that are not even students – they’re just flooding the place right now.”

On the flipside, Silva believes the landlords are as equally guilty in manufacturing the housing crisis in Humboldt County.

“It kind of hurt their wallets a lot because they’re relying on HSU students to pay rent all this time and then when they took off and that happened, it really hurt them,” Silva said. “So now they’re just trying to survive like everyone else but charging rent. When one person’s drowning, they’ll do anything to survive. They’ll even drown another person.”

In a similar situation, HSU senior and biology major Grace Rhoades, moved back up to Humboldt because of a job opportunity they got working for one of the labs at HSU. Landing secure housing has been difficult, but they’re grateful to be subletting a friend’s house until the end of the month.

“There’s just a lot of applying for things, application fees,” Rhoades said. “With COVID, you don’t even really get to see anything or meet anybody in person, you just pay the fee and then like maybe a third of the time they get back to you about the status of your application.”

Even with a roof over their head, Rhoades is still feeling the anxiety of not knowing where they’ll live next month.

“I’m definitely a homebody, I like to know that I have a place,” Rhoades said. “I’ve kind of moved away from home and that’s not really much of an option anymore.”

HSU Off-Campus Housing Coordinator Chant’e Catt recognizes how students are being affected by COVID-19 and finding housing.

“What’s been really hard is students who moved out of town needing people to take over their leases and landlords not being really flexible sometimes with that,” Catt said.

For Catt, another issue that arises is between roommates because of disputes over the extent to which they will abide by COVID-19 rules while sharing a communal living environment.

“People have wanted to break their leases because their roommates don’t respect the restrictions around COVID,” Catt said. “Which puts them in precarious situations where they have to find a new place to live or find somebody to replace their roommate, which could put them into situations where they can’t pay rent.”

Catt has her doubts surrounding the idea that COVID-19 contributed to homelessness at HSU.

“I don’t know if COVID changed anything,” Catt said. “I feel like it’s all the same and that’s because it’s always been so bad.”

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