As Winter Season Nears, J-1 Student Workers Still Need Housing
International students on J-1 visas fill one in six seasonal jobs in Summit County’s local service and hospitality industries. A task force is still working to fill the need for housing student workers this upcoming season.
Pete Stoughton, director of programming at the Christian Center of Park City, says the International Student Housing Task Force was born out of need.
“There are 6,000 employees and seasonal workers who are coming into our community, and we had numerous situations where some of those were not such hospitable environments," Stoughton said. "We were just thinking, as a community, both employers and city members and nonprofit and other leaders, how would we feel if our children were coming into a community and welcomed and embraced in such a capacity.”
The Park City area notably lacks affordable and available housing for the seasonal workforce. Stoughton says the task force has focused its efforts on international students because they’re vulnerable to housing situations that are inhospitable, mentioning one anecdote about student workers living in a Park City closet without any heat.
Dani Lo Feudo, housing resources coordinator with Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, says the task force has a list of students who have secured employment for the season but not housing.
"We make sure that those students are legitimate students, and at the same time we want to make sure that the people they are in touch with are legitimate households," Lo Feudo said. "Unfortunately, there is a lot of scamming going on when people will reach out to perhaps individuals in our community, and they think they're talking to somebody who actually has a house to rent or a room for rent, and they send a deposit and first month’s rent. When they get here, the home doesn't exist."
Stoughton says five homeowners have signed on to participate in housing student workers this season, and the task force is looking for 20 homes. He thinks homeowners are hesitant to rent rooms to workers because they have a certain perception of the students as partyers, and they believe it’s the employers’ role to house their workers.
“They don’t really understand the situation, and people feel that the employers or the agencies who bring these students into the community should have a responsibility to house them," Stoughton said. "While that was not something we're disagreeing with, at the same point in time, we’re saying, well, but the current situation is here and now.”
The International Student Housing Task Force is hosting a meeting for interested community members Monday, Nov. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Christian Center of Park City. For those who can’t make it, email Stoughton at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lo Fuedo at email@example.com.