Like many students before her, Shaelynn Dalton, a sophomore from Tigard, Ore., has faced summer homelessness during her time at BYU.
“I have packed everything I owned into my car, kept some essentials in a suitcase and house-hopped to whatever kind soul would let me crash on their couch,” Dalton said.
It isn’t the “normal” kind of homelessness — these people aren’t holding signs and begging for change. These are BYU students whose decision to move from one place to another lands between summer and fall semester. This timing has left them with nowhere to live for a short period of time because their previous housing contract expires before their next one starts.
During one sumer, Dalton said she stayed in at least three different homes and slept on a variety of surfaces, including a couch, love sack and the floor of her friends’ apartments.
Gary Briggs, the director of Off-campus Housing, said this issue was brought to his attention about four years ago, and he has been working with the landlords of BYU-Contracted housing to work out a solution to the issue.
Many students decide to move to a new place at the start of a new school year. This span of time, usually between the second and fourth week of August, has been commonly referred to as Provo’s “Homeless Period.”
“A lot of landlords will let individuals move into their facilities early and just pay a prorated amount of rent,” Briggs said.
Briggs said in their focus groups and discussions with students, the biggest issue was not a place to sleep — because most students said they had friends or family they could stay with — but having a place to put all of their stuff during those weeks.
Katy Dupree, a physical education major from Brea, Calif., said she usually just stays in her apartment for long periods of time to avoid dealing with being homeless, but she has been affected by it in the past.
“When I have moved, I always have to worry about where I’m allowed to stay and where to put all my stuff,” Dupree said. “I usually just end up paying to stay in my apartment between contracts, but I have been forced to keep boxes at a friend’s apartment and sleep on someone’s couch.”
Natalie Jo Ellis, a senior from Farmington has been left on the curb during the homeless period.
“I’ve been left homeless: no place to sleep, no place to keep all the things I own, bumming meals, showers and places to hang out and sleep from friends,” Ellis said.
Briggs said after the homeless period issue was brought up, some apartment complexes made rooms available for students to store their belongings between the gaps between contracts.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re a lot better, ” Briggs said. “Even if there’s one, it’s something that we want to address because we don’t want that person in the back seat of a car.”
Some students have recommended staying in the same apartment in order to not deal with it. Others recommend staying with friends or family and some just say to set up tents and make the best of it with their friends.
Ryan Trekell, a recent BYU graduate had a positive outlook on the homeless period.
“While we did complain, some of my fondest memories are from homeless week,” Trekell said. “Not only is it nice to try out homelessness, but you’re doing absurd things just to find somewhere to sleep with all your best friends. It makes for a great time.”
Dalton said her experiences with summer homelessness haven’t been all negative either.
“As far as being ‘homeless’ goes, Provo is probably the best place for a college kid. There are always people willing to open up their condo/apartment/car/bathtub to you,” Dalton said.
Briggs said it is important for students to be proactive and know when their contract dates start and end so they can be in control of the situation.
“This is part of their education; it’s not all in the books, there’s life skill development there,” Briggs said.
He advised students to check with their current and future landlords to see if there is a possibility of staying later or moving in early. If this doesn’t work, he recommended students try to stay with friends or family.
If students are still having issues with housing, they can contact The Office of Off-Campus Housing at 801-422-1513.