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Sat, Apr

10% of CSU Students are Homeless! What’s Wrong with This Picture?

LOS ANGELES

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Later this summer when millions of college and university students moved into dorms and apartments, over 50,000 are projected to be homeless. According to 2013-2014 Federal Student Aid Form (FSFA) data, over 56,000 college students identified as homeless.

Last week, the Times reported that one in ten of California State University’s 460,000 students are homeless and one in five are food insecure, per initial findings of a study commissioned by Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White, aimed at addressing the hidden secret at many of the nation’s public universities. 

White stresses the need for the country’s largest public university system to tackle the problem across its 23 campuses. Experts address that it’s difficult to calculate and measure the student homeless population, as many do not consider themselves homeless if they are couch surfing or living in cars. The homeless population tends to be underreported. 

According to the study, eleven campuses host a food pantry or homeless support programs. Fresno State has an app that notifies student when food leftover from campus catered events is available, as well as a center that provides free groceries, toothpaste, and other supplies. Cal State Long Beach’s intervention program gives students grants, hotel vouchers, meal assistance, and counseling, as well as assistance in finding campus jobs. 

Why do so many college students lack housing or adequate food? Experts point to issues like parental job loss and lack of affordable housing. For families in lower income brackets, a job loss can have serious consequences, especially when supporting a child in college. The gap between minimum wage earnings and housing costs has increased while federal housing subsidies have decreased. The average minimum wage employee working full-time cannot afford fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment in most cities.

Three universities across the U.S. have had success with programs for homeless students. At Florida State University, Kennessaw State University in Georgia, and University of Massachusetts Boston, students have access to housing assistance and essential needs such as food and toiletries.

Addressing the needs of students who many not have adequate housing and food is an essential component of higher education. Kudos to the Cal State University system now addressing these issues in a proactive way. Colleges and universities across the country must continue to expand efforts to assist homeless students. California’s and America’s future is in their hands. How skilled, how educated do you want tomorrow’s doctors, scientists, leaders to be?

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a successful Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Photo: LA Weekly. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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