Wellness Center, MSA team up to simplify off-campus housing search

The new program will allow students to be more independent in their search.

The Wellness Resource Center is leading an effort to make selecting off-campus housing an easier process.

The Missouri Students Association, led by Sen. Christopher Kemp, has been collaborating with the center to raise awareness and improve the project, which will be featured on iOS and Android platforms.

The project is expected to become fully functional next semester and is headed by Off-Campus Student Services Coordinator Dionne George.

“The website is what we’re mainly working on now, and the app is in the later stages,” George said. “For the website, we’re going to have an advanced search feature where students will be able to select certain fields that they want to search through.”

The new service will enable students to access important information, including apartment complexes’ websites, leasing office phone numbers and photographs.

“I’m providing all of the data that needs to be inputted into this program that is being created by the Division of IT,” George said.

The Division of Information Technology’s primary involvement is in creating a foundation through which George can easily manage, add and remove information as necessary.

Board of Elections Commissioners Chairman David Wettroth, who was another MSA consultant on the project, said that this new program would reach beyond facts and numbers, and it seeks to provide other resources for a student’s benefit.

“We have resources for how to deal with roommate situations, how to deal with your landlord, and soon, by next semester, a map showing where everything is,” Wettroth said. “It’s a good tool to use to plan out what you’re thinking.”

George said that she has no intentions of this new feature taking the place of old-fashioned consultations but sees considerable value in it.

“I think it’s going to be a great tool for (students),” George said. “With this app, students can sit down, take the time to be proactive and look at what their options are, and after we have some form of a consultation and give them things to think about, they can move on to the next stage of narrowing down these housing options.”

MSA’s role in this project is still undefined, but it could go in many different directions, Wettroth said.

“There are many different ways that MSA can be utilized to help with this — by promoting it, teaming up and talking about it, through some kind of Q&A they have, or just the senators telling their friends,” Wettroth said. “I think there’s a good partnership there, and if they utilize it correctly, this will take off with flying colors.”

George said she is not worried that students will not take advantage of it and said she is confident in her and her staff’s ability to keep the database updated with the latest information.

Kemp said that the ideas for a more straightforward housing search process came almost simultaneously from MSA and the Wellness Resource Center, leading to their decision to join and work together on the project.

“My job is to represent what students want out of the app and website,” Kemp said. “I was brought onto the project because this is geared towards students…. It went along with our wider effort of trying to do something about affordable housing and making sure that off-campus housing and in Columbia in general is meeting students’ needs.”

Kemp said the reason the project will not be implemented until next semester to ensure the app does not have bugs. When the app releases, it will be full-functioning.

“There is a consensus that it is hard to find places now,” Kemp said. “I think it’ll be well-received. Of course, we love feedback — positive or negative, we’ll look for it all.”

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