A hidden crisis: 1 in 10 college students identify as homeless

While many college students juggle attending class, studying for tests, and working part-time, some are doing all this with no certainty of where they will lay their head at night, a problem CBS News recently brought attention to through a segment on Sunday Morning.

According to Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at Temple University and one of the nation’s experts on student homelessness, nearly one in ten college students say they are homeless, having experienced at least one night where they were unsure about where they could sleep.

The finding comes from a study she conducted of more than 40,000 students at 66 institutions, but Goldrick-Rab says people are still shocked to hear about the problem. “It’s been hidden,” said Goldrick-Rab, founder of the Hope Center, told CBS News. “I also think that most people just think about tuition; they don’t think about living expenses.”

Goldrick-Rab notes that student homelessness is in part an unintended outcome of a successful national push to enroll more low-income students in college.

“[W]e have sent a pretty strong signal to [low-income] students that financial aid is available, and you should try college, because it’s your route out of poverty,” she said. More poor students attending college is a positive trend, but “we didn’t build the support for them,” meaning food and housing security are often going unaddressed.

Stringing together a safety net

Depaul USA, a national charity that focuses on homelessness, created a housing program called Dax in Chicago for students in need. The program may have helped saved at least one life: 22-year-old Dom Coronel, a first-generation student at DePaul University, told CBS he once considered taking his life because of his struggle with homelessness. His “patchwork of funding” for school didn’t stretch far enough to cover housing or even regular meals, leaving him to stay in a shelter.

But after Coronel opened up to an attentive administrator, Dax provided him with a room, which has provided desperately needed stability. “I feel like a weight has lifted off my shoulders,” Coronel said. “Like, I can concentrate on my classes. I made it on the Dean’s List. I had never done so well during a college quarter.”

In Los Angeles, students at UCLA run a shelter program for homeless college students, many of them from nearby Santa Monica College. Four UCLA students are on-site at the shelter every night from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., making meals and supporting residents. Homeless students are incredibly grateful for this support, but it doesn’t eliminate their stress; the rest of the day, one student told CBS News she is thinking, “‘How am I gonna survive? Like, what can I do today? What can I do tomorrow?’”

The Hoya Hub Food Pantry

Georgetown University has launched an on-campus food pantry to support members of the university community experiencing food insecurity. Located on the fourth floor of the university’s Leavey student center, the Hoya Hub is available to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff members. The team working on the pantry hopes the project will eventually grow to encompass additional programming and other aspects of food insecurity.

Interested in supporting the Hoya Hub food pantry? Donations will be used to purchase non-perishable food items, grocery gift cards, shelving, and storage containers to create a safe and sustainable resource for the Georgetown University community. Give to the Hoya Hub.

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