Editor’s Note: This story is a project in Winooski High School’s Culture and Community Capstone course, in which students “design a community project to make Winooski a more inclusive and just place.” Special thanks to Luke Dorfman, one of the course teachers, for his generous collaboration. The Underground Workshop is a collaborative network of student journalists from across Vermont. For more information, please email Workshop Editor Ben Heintz at [email protected]

Students transitioning between classes this spring at Winooski High School. Photo by Amira Mohamed Oussaïd

by Maryan Aweis and Amira Mohamed Oussaid

Winooski High School

As of 2022, the town of Winooski has over 7,000 residents, with nearly 25% of the BIPOC population.

The Winooski School District contains three schools and 740 students, all on one campus. It is even more diverse than the City. 57% of students are Asian, Black-African-American and Hispanic. About 46% of students are multilingual, with some of the most common languages ​​being Somali, Nepali, Swahili, Kirundi, French and Lingala.

According to Winooski’s recent report equity audit“One of the biggest issues facing Winooski BIPOC residents is access to affordable, quality housing.¨

We spoke to Winooski students to learn about their housing experiences. Through interviews, focus groups, and discussions with community members, we learned that few students wanted to open up. We had hoped to create a photo story to share images and visuals of housing issues, but most people weren’t comfortable taking pictures of their homes to share.

Many Winooski students said their families needed more space in their homes. One of them said he had no privacy. Another said he couldn’t study at night or do his homework because he had to share a room with his siblings. Some people said it was difficult to have a quiet space to do school when taking online classes.

The students interviewed asked to remain anonymous but gave us permission to share parts of their story. The interior photos come from this same group of students.

A view of Franklin Street, Winooski. Photo by Amira Mohamed Oussaïd.

10th grade student

What do you think is your biggest problem with housing?

¨We have a two bedroom apartment and there are three of us and we’ve been on the list for two years and they haven’t done anything about it. We also had some issues with our water pressure and hot water and it still hasn’t been resolved.¨

How do you think your life could be better if you didn’t have to worry about housing?

¨That would be much better. I could sleep well at night.

A broken shower head that the owners never fixed.

11th grade student

What would you like to see improved in your home?

“Probably a bigger yard.”

Do you think the accommodation you live in is suitable for a large family?

“No. There are three bedrooms and there are six of us.

Was your local landlord helpful when you had a problem with your accommodation?

“No, never. They usually try to find an easier, inexpensive way around it. Okay, we had a problem in our yard. And they wouldn’t fix it. Or if they did, it was really bad. Like the one time our fence was broken. We asked them to fix it and they just chose not to. They pretty much passed it on.

The wall of a dorm room.

10th grade student

What do you think is your biggest problem with housing?


How is this housing issue negatively impacting our school and community?

“Expelling people doesn’t give them a voice.”

A moldy window in a student’s room.

9th grade student

What are the things that our community lacks?

“I feel like our community is not hearing the voices of residents. »

I think housing issues impact our lives and our community because…

¨I think housing issues impact our lives and our community because it doesn’t allow us to live the standard lifestyle we want to live in.¨

One change I want to see in my community is…

¨One change I want to see in my community is to allow the voice of residents to be heard.¨

The ceiling of a dorm room.

10th grade student

What problems do you have with housing?

“I would just say that on the whole, when there is a problem, the owners don’t act immediately. Instead they keep pushing it away or not responding to our phone calls and texts. We have mold on our kitchen ceiling and also in our bathtub, which has caused health problems for my family.”

“We’ve all had headaches every day. We have a baby at home, and it’s not really safe, so they have to do something now before the effects do something bad to us.”

Winooski family can’t afford to fix their 1975 toilet

10th grade student

What problems do you have with housing? What did your landlord do?

“My toilet is almost 50 years old. It’s been here since 1975. I told my landlord to fix it. It’s been over five messages, but he hasn’t come back to fix it.”

“I told my dad to buy a new one but it’s very expensive. We don’t have to worry about using the bathroom or toilet to pee or anything like that. But I would like to have water for the shower.”

The Winooski students return home at the end of a school day. Photo by Amira Mohamed Oussaïd

10th grade student

What would you like to see improved in your home?

“I wish some of the homes that are around town just wouldn’t be sold to bigger companies or whatever they’re trying to do with them right now because that’s hurting a lot of families community, but they don’t. I really don’t care.”

“It forces me to move, because I live in a small business and they sell because they don’t make enough money, which forces me to move. Well, we don’t really have the money to just get on and go like that.”

“So it’s not the easiest for us, but we’ll get there.”

Looking down at River Street, in one of Winooski’s changing neighborhoods.

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Filed under:

People and places

Tags: housing crisis, immigrants, refugees, rental housing, Winooski, Winooski High School

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About the Underground Workshop

The Underground Workshop is a collaborative community of student journalists from across Vermont, reporting and publishing for VTDigger’s statewide audience, and made possible by the Rowland Foundation. The workshop meets on Zoom every other Thursday evening, with student work at the center of each meeting. All students are welcome and can submit their work at any time in a range of formats: feature articles, news briefs, Q&As, photo essays, and more. We also look forward to working with teachers to develop projects for their students. For more information, please contact Ben Heintz, the workshop editor, at [email protected]

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