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College Students: Too Many are Suffering from Homelessness by Andria D. 

Most of us work our hardest to succeed in life. But sometimes simply working hard at school and work isn’t enough. I am asking you to think about the barriers  homelessness presents to students who are trying so hard to get an education to move further in life.

Kelly’s Story: One Student’sStory

Kelly (name has been changed)  is  a current student at a two-year college. She is also homeless and is staying at a local shelter in Venice. She sleeps in a room with fourteen other women with only small dividers for privacy. In addition to the other stressors that come with having no home and living in a shelter, there are the challenges to learning.

Kelly talked to me about how difficult attending classes is even though they are virtual. She says “… It’s like I’ll be on zoom with my class and girls (in the shelter) would tell me that I’m too loud. So I would go outside (to listen to my virtual class), but  then there would be someone yelling or fighting. Having no housing can be so discouraging from trying to focus while in school.”

Homelessness Among Students is Common

Kelly is like so many other college students who suffer from homelessness, Did you know that in 2021 researchers reported that 14% of students attending two- and four-year year institutions experience homelessness?  With prices at an all-time high in California, too many students have a difficult time trying to afford housing and food and then college costs.

 UCLA studies have shown that California has the highest number of students experiencing homelessness. Being homeless while trying to pursue earning a degree can be mentally and physically draining. Some students may fold under such stress  and drop out. Others stay in school, but may not do as well as they could have if they had housing. We need more housing programs for our college students so they can succeed.

My Story: I was a College Student Who Lived  in a Shelter

I’ve also had my own personal experience with trying to attend a community college while not having a stable place to stay. When I was 20 yrs old I was attending college while living at a shelter.  It was very difficult to follow the shelter curfew rules, work and attend classes. The shelter’s curfew was strict: you had to be checked in by a certain time each day. if you didn’t make it there by that time,  you wouldn’t be let in for the night.

Meanwhile, I was struggling to pay for college.  I remember having a hard time receiving financial aid and going back and forth in the financial aid office.  No one really understood my circumstances and I did not receive enough support to understand what was available or how to apply.

All of this was mentally draining and I eventually gave up and dropped out of college. That was a few years ago… I’m now stable and have housing, and last fall  I went back to college again. With housing, it is a different experience.   I’m able to focus on finishing college and accomplishing my goals.

Housing is Critical for Students!

I know how important having housing is for college students; it gives them a sense of stability and comfort. It also allows them to stay in school, perform their best and work toward the education they want to pursue their goals. 

posted July 2023: