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Cold weather brings hardship for local homeless students

As records for the coldest Valentine’s Day are being shattered across New England, New Hampshire residents are being advised to keep warm, maybe curl up with a special someone, and most importantly, stay indoors. The sudden cold snap in Durham pushed most students inside and the mercury well below zero on Saturday night, but while much of UNH’s community is indoors and warm, there are still those without such a luxury. 

“I think there are two categories of homeless who are in the UNH community. There are those who come to UNH and are not connected, and those who attend or work at UNH and are among us everyday,” said UNH Police Department Chief Paul Dean.

While accurate statistics are difficult to attain, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) estimated there to be more than 58,000 homeless students across the country from the 2012-2013 academic year. According to Shadee Ashtari from The Huffington Post, this marks a more than 75 percent increase over the previous 3 years.

However, according to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY), a major problem in gathering accurate data and directly addressing homelessness at universities comes from the stigma associated with being homeless. NAEHCY predicts FAFSA’s estimates to be significantly higher if the data included students that didn’t self-identify as homeless either due to the negative connotations associated with the term or because they weren’t aware they qualified as homeless.

While Durham doesn’t have any homeless shelters itself, the town does have an active food pantry open to those in need.

“Living at Waysmeet and being involved in the food pantry has been interesting because the patrons may or may not be homeless,” said Zachary Adinolfi, a non-traditional freshman interning at the Waysmeet Center, “Talking with Larry (Brickner-Wood, the director of the Waysmeet Center), it sounds like there are students that really can’t afford housing.”

While the towns of Dover and Portsmouth offer multiple services directly aimed at addressing local issues related to poverty, Durham, a community largely composed of residents well above the poverty line faces unique challenges in sheltering those without a home.

“We had a homeless man that fell asleep at Breaking New Grounds last fall, and it was a very confusing experience. It was very cold outside so me and my coworker did not want to throw him out or anything like that. Luckily we had the number to [Brickner-Wood] the director of the Waysmeet Center, and called him. He told me about how New Hampshire state law requires police officers to pick up and take care of any homeless person that requires shelter,” said Jake Werner, a non-traditional sophomore who works at Breaking New Grounds.

“I can’t imagine trying to get by without a home, especially with how extreme the temperatures get up here in New Hampshire. I really hope that UNH and the community at large takes an active role in making sure everyone that needs help gets it,” said Werner.

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