Affordable Housing, Resource Centers and Services Can Help College Students Experiencing Homelessness Achieve their Goals

Earlier this week, we published a blog post about school aged children experiencing homelessness and how McKinney-Vento legislation helps ensure that children can attend class at their original school.

But what happens to these young people once they graduate from high school? How do you navigate college as a young adult experiencing homelessness? On November 18, 2019, Young Invincibles reported “’I Know What’s at Stake:’ How Homelessness Impacts College Success in New York City.”

According to the report,

“A 2019 Hope Center survey of 22,000 City University of New York undergraduates found that 14 percent had experienced homelessness while enrolled in classes. More than half of the survey’s respondents experienced some form of housing insecurity over the last year.”

For its “I Know What’s at Stake” report, Young Invincibles interviewed college students in New York City experiencing homelessness and asked them about the barriers they face. College students experiencing homelessness in New Jersey face the same barriers.

According to the report,

“Nationwide, college students are experiencing homelessness at alarming rates: 14 percent of four-year college students and 18 percent of community-college students experience homelessness in a given year.”

The barriers include missing college classes due to the instability of life while experiencing homelessness, the stress that comes with being homeless, having to choose between finding the basic needs of housing and food and attending class and completing assignments, living with the rules of a homeless shelter that might have curfews that don’t allow college students to participate in extracurricular activities, and facing the stigma of being homeless.

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?

The focus groups conducted for this report found that it is not that young adults experiencing homelessness do not have educational and career goals but that they don’t have the support they need to achieve those goals.

One way to help college students experience homelessness is to provide affordable housing and services that allow students to achieve stability. One model that is providing services to college students at risk of homelessness or experiencing homelessness is The Resource Center at Raritan Valley Community College. Resource centers can provide 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.

The initiatives and partnerships between hospitals and housing providers to 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.