UNH Philosophy Colloquium Series Addresses Homelessness


Cameron Whitney, Contributing Writer

DURHAM– The University of New Hampshire’s Philosophy Colloquium Series featured a presentation by Bates College Philosophy Professor Paul Schofield on Nov. 4. Schofield  argued that homelessness should be considered in a different light than other social justice matters, as it tests our democratic commitments as a liberal democracy.

“Homelessness isn’t just an injustice that could be listed alongside, you know, all of the other bad things that are happening in the world,” said Schofield. “I think there’s something special about it, which is that it involves a kind of deep exclusion from society.”

Schofield explained homelessness as a continuum that ranged from chronically unhoused, those who have been unhoused for years, to housing secure. He showed how, as people move farther from the housing secure side of the spectrum closer to chronic homelessness, they become increasingly excluded from society.

“When you exclude a sizable part of the population, you’re not a liberal democracy anymore. I think that housing instability, you know, all the people on that spectrum that I talked about that raises an issue about whether and how many of our fellow country mates are on the road to being excluded altogether,” said Schofield.

Schofield described how an individual’s status among their relationships, employment, bureaucracy, police and community are damaged as they move closer to the chronically unhoused extreme of the continuum. Housing security and access to adequate food affect campuses such as UNH  and are issues that community members have been taking steps towards addressing and combatting.

Schofield first noticed the severe effects of homelessness when he volunteered in a soup kitchen as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Many of the homeless individuals he served struggled to find a restroom they were allowed to use due to COVID-19 regulations. This prompted him to think more profoundly regarding the topic of homelessness.

Schofield suggests students attend planning board and zoning meetings at their local municipalities to advocate for more housing as well as the implementation of shelters. 

UNH students facing homelessness approached Joan Glutting, clinical professor of Psychology at UNH, while she was a senior faculty fellow in the Dean of Students office.  The students had nowhere to live during school breaks and Glutting realised there weren’t any services in place for them, leading her to create the Inn Between Fund.

Inn Between pays for housing for students who cannot afford it during Thanksgiving, January Term and Spring Break. It also helps students to develop the tools they need to remain housing secure. 

“It isn’t a fund that tons of students need, but it is really important when they don’t have a place to go,” said Glutting.

Along with this fund, other housing, food and financial support services at UNH include Cat’s Cupboard, Student Emergency Financial Assistance (SEFA), Swipe it Forward and Loaner Laptop. 

These make up UNH’s basic needs programs and students can get involved through donations of food, swipes or money. Volunteer opportunities also exist on campus, at Cat’s Cupboard, or off-campus at locations such as the Waysmeet Center. 

The Waysmeet Center is a non-profit aimed at invoking change through their mission of providing direct service to the NH seacoast area. Waysmeet’s Cornucopia Food Pantry has been providing food and support to UNH staff, faculty, students and their families since 1997. Waysmeet also hosts events, which currently include a self care mini series and virtual open mic fundraisers.

UNH sorority Alpha Xi Delta partnered with the Waysmeet Center last year to focus on providing relief for students after the COVID-19 pandemic to combat basic needs shortages.

“Our philanthropy is the Kindly Hearts Initiative which supports children and teens experiencing foster care or homelessness,” says Shannon Lynch, vice president of philanthropy for Alpha Xi Delta. “I manage all of our fundraisers, along with our philanthropy team, and encourage our sisters to become more involved in community service within the Seacoast community and UNH.”

Lynch says her favorite memory was when she and her sorority sisters painted the Cornucopia Food Pantry that now runs every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday inside the Waysmeet Center.

“I think it’s important to help our local community because the area has given so much to UNH and we should support them in return,” says Alexia Widtfeldt, a member of Alpha Xi Delta. “Durham has created an inclusive community between the university students and the residents of the town. To continue to foster and support this community, we need to mutually support each other.” 

Students looking to get involved in the community through volunteer work and donations can find more information on the Waysmeet website and UNH’s Basic Needs Support page.