Some American College Students Face Homelessness and Housing Insecurity

The Impact of Housing Concerns on College Students and How to Address Problem

The sub-population of the homeless population made up of college students experiencing homelessness is drawing increasing attention.

A recent Next City article, “Colleges Are Beginning to Tackle Student Homelessness,” discusses strategies to address homelessness among college students.
 
The article shares data from the recent #RealCollege 2019 study from Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.  The study surveyed 86,000 students and found:
 
• 18% of students attending 2 year colleges experienced homelessness;
• 14% of students attending 4 year colleges experienced homelessness;
• 60% of students attending 2 year colleges were housing insecure; and
• 48% of students attending 4 year colleges were housing insecure.
 
Housing insecurity is a broad term and it affects individuals or households who cannot afford housing, are at risk or eviction or live in housing that is not safe.  Many college students today work more than one more job which combined with the stress of being housing insecure and keeping up with course loads, assignments and family responsibilities can make life very stressful.  
 
Students under stress attending college may have trouble focusing in class, completing their coursework and even attending class on a regular basis.  Another factor is the fear of stigma.   College students experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity may be afraid of facing the stigma that surrounds homelessness and how they will be judged by their peers.
 
For those students living in campus housing who are homeless or housing insecure, where do they go during college breaks when the dormitories close or when the dormitories that stay open charge low-income students extra fees that they cannot afford.
 
Institutions can offer resource centers and food pantries and work to develop and provide more affordable on-campus housing options to low-income students.    Assistance with food is critical because housing and food security can often go hand in hand.
 
The stakes are high for the reasons why colleges should be looking for solutions to student homelessness.  If young adults experiencing homelessness are not able to complete college or a job training program that provides a career path, what future do they have in making a salary that will allow them to support themselves?
 
Providing affordable housing and services helps students stabilize their lives which makes for more successful college students. One resource model providing services to college students at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness is The Resource Center at Raritan Valley Community College. Resource centers offer services such as food pantries, assistance in applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), childcare on campus, emergency assistance to students experiencing homelessness, and opportunities for paid internships.
 
What makes this Resource Center an smart model for serving college students experiencing homelessness is that it combines services that can help prevent homelessness among students experiencing housing insecurity.  And while colleges work towards the longer term solution of more housing, services can work to address both housing and food insecurity.
 
The initiatives and partnerships between hospitals and housing providers to that address major social determinants of health and create affordable housing near hospitals to serve the frequent users of emergency departments and provide affordable housing for hospital workers could be replicated as partnerships between housing providers and state universities and county colleges.