At the start of classes, some students in the state of Savannah are homeless

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When Savannah State University decided in mid-April to schedule renovations for one of its larger residences, a project that could take nearly a year, it did so given that only 114 students had registered to live in this dormitory.

But students who had been placed on a waiting list for accommodation – and who were already hedging their bets on room availability at the university – were not told of the closure until July 28, around three weeks before the start of classes on Monday. The short notice left them little time to adjust.

University Village, an upper class dormitory, contains 660 beds and was built in 2008.

Enrick Duporte III, a senior homeland security graduate, has spent the last year studying virtually due to the pandemic. By the time he decided to return to campus, there was no more housing available. He was placed on a waiting list at the end of June, in the hopes that something would open. It was almost August before he learned that the dorm wouldn’t be an option.

On Monday, he had no place to live and was working with the housing manager. Duporte criticized the university’s lack of communication, which he said put students and parents in an even more difficult position during a pandemic.

“It was such short notice,” he said. “They knew they could have told us this last semester. That way people would have time to find apartments or other ways to adjust to their living conditions.”

University actions

Bonita Bradley, assistant vice president of students and dean of students, said the university was working to relocate the 114 students who had guaranteed accommodation in other dormitories as the school prepared for renovations “in wear and tear of the 13-year-old building in October. . The dorm is slated to reopen next fall, Bradley said.

“We monitored the occupation from February to April, and when we saw it in April it was very weak, that’s when we started to get serious,” she said. .

Savannah State University sent students a notice to close one of its dorms three weeks before class began.

The university sent a letter to students at the end of July, which said in part:

“To help improve life on campus, a residential facility – University Village will be closed for renovations scheduled to begin in October. The renovations will be carried out in planned phases. All University Village units will be evaluated as part of the Residence Life Improvement Plan to meet needed improvements. This establishment is closed prior to your arrival, so there is no disruption of accommodation for our residents during the semester. ”

Yet for many on the waiting lists hoping to secure one of the more than 600 beds at this facility or other accommodation, the notification at the end of the summer that University Village would not be available. makes them scramble, even while classes are in progress.

Read:Savannah State to Receive $ 24 Million in US Bailout Grants

Notices of the dormitory closure were sent to 104 students who were on the waiting list after failing to register for housing between February and May when SSU’s online housing portal opened, Bradley said. As of Monday afternoon, 30 students were on the waiting list and the university hoped to cut that amount in half by the end of the day.

But with little notice, students like Arianna Harrell considered their options, including staying in an extended-stay hotel. Harrell applied to be put on the waiting list for housing in June after she decided to return to school in the fall. “By the time the accommodation opened I was depressed. I didn’t even know if I was going to go back to school, honestly.

University Village apartments on the Savannah State University campus.

Harrell, 20, had a class on Mondays at 8 a.m., but wasn’t sure he would make it. “I’ll find a way,” said third year biology graduate from her home in Decatur on Friday. “I always do.”

On Monday, she decided to stay with a friend of her father’s in Rincon, Georgia.

Jessica Lamar, 20, a sophomore marine biology student, registered for accommodation during the initial registration period, but canceled her registration after learning that all of her classes would be virtual.

Following:Savannah State University wipes off debts of 220 students with CARES law funds

But when she learned in June that her lab required her to be on campus, she decided to apply for housing. The major in marine biology stays in Richmond Hill, an hour from Savannah, but has no transportation to and from there. She is also worried about what the lack of housing means to her for this semester.

Lamar has informed her professors of the situation and they are working with her, but she remained critical of the university’s decision to do renovations in the fall.

“I feel like they should have done it in the summer, and (the renovations) would have been done earlier,” she said.

Harrell and Lamar also considered apartments, but the rent ranged from $ 800 to $ 1,700. They always hope to find affordable apartments.

Following:Savannah rental market soars, inventory plummets

Over the past week, Bradley worked with SSU Housing Director Michael Sharpe to find student accommodation, calling students to see if they are still coming to campus and to find accommodation at the need. In the past, the university has used spaces on the Armstrong Atlantic campus of Georgia Southern University.

“We love our students, we want them to be on campus, and therefore we work on a daily basis, regardless of the perceived occupancy issue,” Bradley said. “We are working to ensure that our students have accommodations to the best of our ability, because we understand that the environment on campus is the best for them academically.”

University Village apartments on the Savannah State University campus.

For students without housing on campus, this means they will miss campus camaraderie, a key part of HBCU culture.

“We all come together, we can have functions, and we could basically be a family,” Harrell said. “You don’t really get that off campus.”

Deporte was still weighing his options this weekend. “I have my wrap-up class and stuff that I really have to be there in person for, but as far as what happens if I can’t find accommodation, I don’t know.

“I tried to stay optimistic about the whole situation because you know I want to graduate,” he said. “I want to get out of this. I want to finish my last semester on campus taking care of all the activities and coming home.


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