By Dr. Stephanie Schneider
For too many college students, worries about exams and research papers often take a back seat to finding a place to sleep. Studies on California campuses tell us that 4% of UC students, 12% of CSU students, and nearly 20% of community college students are either housing-insecure (not sure they if they will have housing in the near future) or are outright homeless – sleeping in their cars, on fellow students’ couches, or even in campus libraries. This means that in Orange County, over 20,000 students face these challenges each year.
Students take many paths that lead to this situation. Some were homeless before college and were admitted without a permanent place to live. As one student said, “I just knew that I needed to get here and get a degree.” Others have parents who cannot add college costs to an already stretched budget. Still others have either left home or been kicked out by their families and have no back-up system when their financial aid does not cover costs.
We know that living without permanent housing (and probably with little nutritious food) leads to students being more stressed, have less contact with peers, and much less likely to finish their degree. We also know that the groups most likely to face homelessness are students of color, former foster youth, and LGBT youth. While all college campuses provide some support for basic needs such as food, clothing and hygiene products there are few housing resources available. Many campuses offer room in their dorms for students who identify themselves as homeless – sadly it is usually dozens of rooms to serve hundreds of students.
A young person whose goal is to become a more-informed, better-prepared member of society should NOT have to worry about personal safety each day. The success of our communities depends upon the welfare of everyone – when one of us suffers it impacts us all. Now is the time to work towards solutions to this growing problem; connect with one of the many agencies working towards affordable housing and support for youth in need.
One such agency is StandUp for Kids. We provide mentoring, basic need supplies, transportation assistance and more to teens and young adults in need. Visit us on the web at www.standupforkids.org/orangecounty. If you know a college student in need, have them visit the YouTube Channel “OC Colleges Project” for more information on available support.