COVID-19 Impact Report – College Students in Orange County

April 8 2020

StandUp for Kids - Orange County 

According to statewide data, last year 13% of community college students, 12% of CSU undergraduates, and 4% of UC undergraduates faced housing insecurity or homelessness. In Orange County this translates as up to 14,000 college students aged 18 – 24, living in cars, on the couches of friends, or in other unsafe arrangements at some point in the year. Several of our nine community colleges have confirmed that there are over 1,000 students on their campus who report themselves to be either currently homeless or at high risk of homelessness. These numbers are pre-COVID-19; numbers may be even higher today.

We compiled additional data last month in light of the COVID-19 emergency, attempting to learn more about the needs specific to college youth in need. We interviewed and researched the nine community colleges and two 4-year public universities in Orange County to determine the impact of the current pandemic on these students. Below is a brief summary of findings: 

  • All campuses are closed, with courses being held online. Access to some campuses is physically blocked, others have skeleton staff present to support online learning and all discourage in-person visits by students.
  • All campus food pantries are closed, except the Basic Needs Hub at UC Irvine that is open for food pick-up by appointment every other week.
  • Campus staff including homeless liaisons, support service leads and pantry staff are either working from home or have been furloughed.
  • Most campuses are focused on their primary mission of education; additional support services for vulnerable students have taken a back seat due to limited resources and staff. 

The impacts on each campus’ most vulnerable students have been significant. 

  1. Access to online instruction is a major challenge: students who previously accessed free wifi from their college libraries or local coffee shops now have no internet access; others who relied on their phones for internet (versus a computer) cannot download assignments or course materials. They are at high risk of failing their courses. 
  2. Many students have been laid off from their part-time jobs, reducing or totally eliminating their incomes. They must now rely upon food banks or giveaways from local nonprofits or churches who are already stretched to capacity. 
  3. College support services such as food pantries, hygiene facilities, and community referrals have been eliminated. The support networks that students count on are gone, leaving them at high risk for stress-related illnesses. 
  4. Opportunities for ‘couch surfing’ are reduced, with many families worrying about social distancing and keeping their own families safe. Students may be days or weeks away from swelling the ranks of street homeless.

StandUp for Kids is working with these campuses to notify students in need of our services and inviting them to call our hotline for assistance. These calls have more than doubled in the last two months, indicating the level of need. Funding for these students, and other youth experiencing homelessness, is an urgent need at this time. In addition to housing, donations will support the food, clothing, medical, and basic hygiene needs of these vulnerable young adults. Over 90% of donations are used to directly support youth. Donate directly here: https://www.standupforkids.org/OrangeCounty or during our “Help Them Home” campaign on April 22 through this link: College Homelessness - Help Them Home.

Prepared April 6, 2020 
By
Stephanie Schneider, Ph.D.
Project Director, OC Colleges Project
StandUp for Kids - Orange County

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StandUp for Kids - Orange County has been serving Orange County’s homeless teens and youth for fifteen years. We provide mentoring support, assistance with basic needs, ‘safe spaces’ in our outreach centers, prevention programs at local high schools and middle schools, and apartment support to young adults ready to become self-sufficient. Last year we provided nearly 10,000 instances of support including over 3,400 meals, 1,634 nights of shelter, and 4,533 hours of mentoring support.

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