Community College Students Struggling with Hunger, Homelessness

March 24 2017

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SAN ANTONIO - A recent national study highlights the level of hunger and homelessness in our youth, more specifically students attending community college.

The Wisconsin HOPE Lab surveyed more than 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states, including San Antonio College. They found that 2 in 3 students attending community college are food insecure, about half are housing insecure, and 13 to 14 percent are homeless.

KENS 5 spoke with one former student who experienced the struggle firsthand.

"I slept outside in the courtyard," said 25-year-old Jon-Mycheal Day, referring to his “bedroom” of four years at Haven For Hope.

Day struggled with homelessness while trying to pursue an education.

"I've always been the type where I hate quitting. If I start something, I want to finish it," he said. "That's why I decided, if they don't want to help me, I'm gonna have to do something to help myself. That's why I decided to go back to school."

In 2013, he was left without a place to live.

"Don't have family here. The ones I do, they don't talk to me, I don't talk to them," Day said. "[I] don't have very many friends that I could have stayed with, so it was either Haven For Hope or underneath the bridge."

Stand Up For Kids, a local organization, helped Day get back on his feet.

"Anytime I needed help, if I was trying to get an apartment, they would help me," he said.

Stand Up For Kids helped pay for Day's HVAC education at the Southern Careers Institute and ensured that he always had money for a bus pass.

"As I was going, I was getting better and better jobs. Getting hired on at the AT&T Center as a dishwasher then getting promoted to a concessions cook, a concessions supervisor," Day described. "Then, our chef here brought me over from the AT&T Center and made me the head cook over here [at Blue Skies of Texas East]."

The new Student Advocacy Center at San Antonio College, called "The Store," is one of multiple college food pantries aiming to put an end to hunger and homelessness.

"We have soups. Vegetable soup, all sorts of canned soups, toothbrushes, toothpaste. This bin is full of soaps and shampoos and lotions," said Brenda Roque, a social work major at San Antonio College and a volunteer at The Store.

Research from the fall of 2016 shows, out of 1,600 students at San Antonio College, 44 percent are food insecure. Of those students, 25 percent go hungry one to three days a month.

Of the 1,600 students, 41 percent couldn't pay their mortgage or they've had to move multiple times, and 10 percent of students are homeless, according to the December 2016 data from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab.

The survey by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, which we’ve linked to at the bottom of this page, also found that students with children were also disproportionately likely to experience food and housing insecurity.

Through SAMMinistries' Transitional Program, hundreds of homeless residents have attended Alamo Colleges, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

"We try to help focus them on education," said Navarra Williams, president & CEO of SAMMinistries. "They know that when they get a student form SAMMinistries, that there's support for that student."

SAMMinistries' Transitional Program houses families for up to two years and focuses on education and job training to better prepare graduates to enter the workforce.

"Getting something that will help you to continue to improve your income is what's going to make you stable, is going to keep you out of homelessness," Williams said.

SAMMinistries currently has 20 residents attending Alamo Colleges.

Additionally, since the launch of their Homeless Prevention Program in 2008, more than 22,000 people have been allowed to stay in their homes, including 14,000 children.

Although Day went to a trade school, his struggle proves just how significant the issue is in San Antonio.

Day's hard work paid off. Two weeks ago Friday, he got the keys to a new apartment.

"It still feels weird to get out of work at night and know that I'm going home and not to the shelter," Day said.

Day advises anyone struggling to overcome homelessness to get help from local organizations, such as Stand Up For Kids.

Within 10 years, Day hopes to start his own business. If not, he says he always has his HVAC education as a fallback.

For more information on Stand Up For Kids, visit www.standupforkids.org.

SAMMinistries has served the homeless in San Antonio for over 34 years. They rely on community support to continue their mission. To donate or to learn more about volunteering, visit www.SAMM.org.

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