Resources for University Students Facing Housing Insecurity | Education


After a hectic day of juggling lessons, studying, extracurricular activities, and even jobs, many students retreat to their residence halls or apartments to decompress. But given the high cost of rent in cities across the country, financial uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and limited housing options on campuses — especially at community colleges — not all students have a home. -self.

Fifty-two percent of students at two-year colleges experienced some form of housing insecurity in fall 2020, along with 43% of students at four-year institutions, according to #RealCollegeSurvey from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, published in March 2021. The number of four-year college students in precarious housing situations jumped nearly 23% from the previous year.

Students of color, student parents and students who identified as LGBTQ were more likely to face housing insecurity than their peers, the survey found.

“Students are not immune to the broader issues of affordability and housing shortages facing communities across the country,” says Mark Huelsman, director of policy and advocacy at the Hope Center, based in Ottawa. ‘Temple University in Pennsylvania.

What is housing insecurity?

Housing insecurity encompasses a wide range of housing issues, including the inability to pay rent or utilities, frequent moves, loss of housing, or living in an apartment or house above one’s capacity.

What it often looks like in colleges is for students to sleep on friends’ couches or floors, live out of their cars, or stay in crowded apartments, says North Carolina psychology professor Mary Haskett. State University and Co-Chair of the University Steering Committee. Food Security and Student Housing Commission.

Friends “can kick you out at any time and they do, so students live with their stuff in a bag ready to be kicked out and find somewhere else to live,” she says. “It’s a constant stressor, impacting the mental health and well-being of students.”

Research indicates that students facing housing insecurity have poorer health, higher rates of depression and anxiety, and lower GPAs than their peers.

Housing Resources on College Campuses

As the coronavirus pandemic shines a light on the insecurity of students’ basic needs, more schools are establishing basic needs centers, affordable housing options and secure parking programs, experts say.

Still, many students don’t know about resources, don’t know they’re eligible, or are embarrassed to ask for help, according to the Hope Center survey.

“We can’t expect students to learn or persist in college if they’re concerned about keeping a roof over their heads and those of their families, in many cases,” Huelsman says.

Basic Needs Hubs

Students experiencing housing insecurity also face challenges with other basic needs. To provide more holistic support, Portland State University in Oregon, for example, has developed a Basic Needs Center on its campus.

Students can get emergency scholarships; food assistance, such as an on-campus food pantry, distribution of fresh produce and emergency meal vouchers; and short-term and long-term housing services.

“We’re going around all the resource centers and student-run organizations and educating staff, faculty and students on how to break some of that stigma” around basic needs insecurity, says Lee Ann Phillips, Basic Needs Navigator at PSU. “Housing insecurity is incredibly pervasive at academic institutions, so we’re trying to normalize it as best we can for students.”

Community partnerships

In addition to providing on-campus resources, some schools work with nonprofits or other local organizations to find temporary affordable housing solutions for their students.

NC State has partnered with the Bishop William Earl Lee Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to end intergenerational homelessness, to launch the Housing Options for Students Today program. Community members in the Raleigh area are opening their homes to North Carolina State students who are at risk of homelessness. The program also aims to support students at HBCUs and community colleges in Raleigh.

Students can stay only a few nights or up to several months with hosts. To ensure safe living conditions for students, hosts are vetted through a background check and home visit, and must complete a two-day training session. The program hopes to start serving students by summer, according to Haskett.

Similarly, PSU, Portland Community College, and Mt. Hood Community College partnered with two nonprofits to create the Student Affordable Rent Program. Participating students benefit from subsidized housing, reduced utility costs, and waiving security deposits and application fees.

Other schools offered hotels as short-term accommodation options. Using part of its federal COVID-19 relief funding, Southwestern College in California purchased vouchers for students to temporarily stay at the nearby Red Roof Inn. The school is currently working on longer-term solutions, with eventual plans to build affordable housing on campus.

“You have these young people who, against all odds, are trying to improve their futures and move their lives forward,” says Kelly Hall, assistant superintendent and vice president of business and financial affairs at Southwestern. “We want to do everything we can to try to remove the barriers that prevent them from accessing their education.”

Safe Parking Programs

Parking in abandoned lots or overnight on campus to sleep can not only result in fines or car towing, but it can also be dangerous.

Long Beach City College in California has a secure parking program in place that allows students to sleep in their vehicle at a secure campus seven nights a week, with access to restrooms, showers, and Wi-Fi.

“It’s by no means a lasting solution, but for those who live in their cars, safety is a major issue,” says David Helene, founder and CEO of Edquity, a company that works with colleges to improve safety. financial situation of students. Security.

Build housing on campus

With California residents in particular facing high rents and displacement from homes caused by wildfires in recent years, several community colleges in the state – including Orange Coast College, Santa Rosa Junior College and Southwestern – have developed policies. plans to build affordable housing on campus.

Santa Rosa, for example, is set to open student housing in the fall of 2023, housing 352 students at below-market prices. Accommodation options range from single rooms with shared bathrooms to four-bedroom apartments. Furniture and utilities are included in the rental price.

“We’re going to put in place a process to be able to find the students who need it the most and make sure they’re prioritized,” including those who identify as veterans, homeless, low-income or young people in host family, says Pedro Avila, vice president of student services at Santa Rosa.

Meanwhile, Orange Coast College completed its student housing complex in August 2020. Apartments available include studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and four-bedroom apartments. Units have study areas, and furniture and utilities are included in the cost.

“The past two years of a global pandemic have been extremely difficult for students (and many others), significantly affecting their mental health,” OCC president Angelica Suarez wrote in an email. “Having the ability to provide students with a college residential experience that encompasses the needs of the whole student (financial, social/emotional, academic) allows them to see a clearer path to their future.”

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