When a student needs food or shelter for the holidays, where do they go? Since the dorms are closed, where can they stay? HomeBase is here to help!
HomeBase, a ministry of Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, provides resources and support for all students. The ministry has a list of amenities such as food, housing, a clothing closet, free Wi-Fi, computers with printers, school supplies, showers, rides to appointments and a safe space for students to relax. HomeBase also has volunteers and interns to help with all services.
Director Jim Dean spoke with The Carolinian about the students who don’t have housing or support during the holiday and school breaks. The safe place is for independent students, whether that means they don’t have guardians, are emancipated or are on their own. HomeBase helps these students find places to stay or allows them to stay in the building. There is only one rule: the tenants must help around HomeBase.
Housing is a big issue
“When the breaks come, it turns to almost exclusively housing. Housing is a big need for students: the dorms close and there is no food service provided by the university so then what happens if you’re a student who doesn’t have a home to go to or parents that you can count on, what do you do? Where do you go?” Dean asked. In the past, students have come and stayed in either the building or in their cars but still using HomeBase during the day.
One major issue that the university and HomeBase are both experiencing is an increase of students who have nowhere to go for the holidays since the dorms must stay closed.
“As a matter of fact, we already have seven students that have come and we’re going to have them stay here over the break, which is really the max we can house…so now at this point, I’m turning them over to the Dean of Students, BaShaun Smith and seeing what he can work out,” explained Dean.
The only thing he can do is let the students come during the daytime. He has sent Smith seven more names and he predicts the university will see more students needing help during this break. In the summer, HomeBase started out with five students needing help but throughout the break, they housed over 35 students.
HomeBase, Smith, and three directors from Housing, Food Services, and other departments had a meeting to figure out the next steps for these students in need. “If I’m the answer to the university’s housing and we are already full, then we are in trouble… we are trying to work through it and work it out,” said Dean.
To all the students who need help, Dean stressed they should talk to him so he can get their information as spots may open up. He doesn’t want students to get into a dangerous situation because they didn’t reach out to him or Smith.
“We encourage any students who are experiencing a financial crisis to complete a student emergency fund request at dos.wcu.edu… We are currently working to collect data on how many students are experiencing homelessness. Without the correct data, we cannot decide on if there is a rise in students who are homeless during the breaks…as an institution we truly care about all our students. Communication is key, please have those students to reach out to myself at email@example.com. I will reach out to them to provide any assistance that is within my authority with assistance from campus partners,” said Smith in an email.
How can students help?
Dean has requested for donations to be food, toiletries and gift cards to give to students or be used for necessities around HomeBase.
There is always a need for volunteers to help clean or oversee the services they provide. “This semester, we have been seeing around 400 services provided every week. Last year was our busiest year ever and we are 75% higher in services this year than last year,” said Dean. He believes it is because of more awareness of the program and there are more students in need.
One thing Dean asks is for previous users of HomeBase services to bring a friend who may need help since it can be difficult for a student to ask for help, especially alone. It can also break the tension and spread awareness about this organization.
“Independent students are very resilient; they must be in order to face all the obstacles and go to school. School is hard enough,” he said. With the help of the program, HOMBASE had 13 students graduate last semester and around 25 graduating this semester.
HomeBase will be hosting themed meals during the break. To see upcoming events, check out HomeBase_wcu on Instagram. You can also contact them at HomeBasecollegeministries@gmail.com or by calling (828) 508-0035.
Another resource for food in the area is The Community Table, an organization that provides free food and pantry services in Sylva, regardless of need.