6 Resources For Homeless College Students

By Danielle Wirsansky on February 27, 2016
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College, while it can be great fun, is already one of the most challenging times of a person’s life. It’s a time for teens to become adults, to learn responsibility, and to learn how to balance a healthy lifestyle. It’s a time to grow and change. Now imagine an added impediment to the experience: being homeless.

Student homelessness is not something often touched upon, but according to a 2015 report made by The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), there are 58,000 homeless students on campuses nationwide. And Barbara Duffield, Policy Director at The National Association For The Education Of Homeless Children And Youth (NAEHCY) believes that number is increasing every year.

While it is a big and important issue that doesn’t seem to be slowing down, there are resources for homeless students to utilize.

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The College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA)

This act went into place in 2007 and includes provisions to make undergraduate and graduate education more affordable for aspiring social-impact professionals. It also establishes that unaccompanied homeless youth qualify as independent students for purposes of federal financial aid.

This is particularly important because many resources are supposed to assist students facing this dilemma, but they are not always able to be fully utilized because homeless students often have trouble filling out parental or guardian information forms.

There are also other national-level supports available for college-bound homeless students, including fee waivers for Advanced Placement exams, college entrance exams, and college application fees.

On-Campus Housing

Most universities have a Residence Life Office that can be an excellent resource to help homeless students find a place to stay. According to Amy Dunning, a senior case manager with the YWCA, “some institutions, such as Kennesaw State University, are now making year-round dorms available for homeless and at-risk homeless students.” Through this program, year-round or emergency housing, as well as toiletries, food, and clothing, are provided to students who need it.

Not all schools offer this of course, but the Residence Life Office should be able to provide local resources to help provide emergency housing in their community. Dunning also suggests that if a homeless student belongs to a Greek organization, living at the house especially if it is open during breaks might be a great option.

Food Pantries

Many schools offer food pantries, a place students can go to get non-perishable food items. It’s usually a no questions system, so students shouldn’t feel embarrassed if they need to use the pantry. For example, Florida State University’s Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement runs a campus food pantry for and provides transportation to the grocery store for its students. This is an example many schools are following.

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Local Organizations

Homes for Students of Higher Education is a great example of an organization that helps homeless students. It is located in Washington State and helps homeless and at-risk students with getting personalized assistance, assistance finding shelter or housing, and food assistance.

Locals also have the opportunity to Adopt A Student, a program in which the organization “match[es] financially challenged, at-risk and homeless students with donors who are interested in helping these disadvantaged students attend their institution and achieve their academic dreams.” There are organizations like this in just about every state and they can be great and passionate resources for students who truly need the help.

Work as a Resident Assistant

Being a Resident Assistant in an on-campus dormitory is hard work, there’s no denying it. You’re expected to be at your dorm, in your room much of the time and you have to deal with and fix all the problems and trouble your residents get into.

But the perk? You get free room and board. This can be a great option for students who depend on financial aid to pay for their housing but can’t wait the 30 days after the semester has begun for the financial aid to clear and other similar obstacles. And living on campus has proven to have a positive effect on students, helping them to do better and succeed in school.

Your Friends

While your friends will be college students too, they can offer a couch, a futon, an air mattress, a place to lay down your head with a blanket while you’re looking for a safe place to stay. Your friends want you to be safe and they want to support you. Even if they can’t provide you with long-term college housing or you don’t feel comfortable to stay with them, they can at least store some of your belongings until your life is a little bit more stabilized.

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Danielle Wirsansky graduated from FSU with a BA in Theatre and a BA in Creative Writing with a minor in History. She is a first year graduate student in FSU's History department. She studied abroad in London, England for the Spring 2015 semester at FSU's study center for the Playwriting Program and interned for the English National Theatre of Israel in Summer of 2015. Her first musical, City of Light, opened as part of FSU's New Horizons Festival in Spring of 2016. She has also won the MRCE and URCAA Research grants from FSU. In the past, she served as the Marketing Director for the FSU Student Theatre Association, the intern for the Holocaust Education Resource Council, and the research assistant of Prof. Nathan Stoltzfus. She has previously written for Context Florida (Contributing Writer), USA Today College (Contributing Writer), Sheroes of History (Contributing Blogger), No(le)Reservations (Contributing Blogger), Female, Reloaded (Arts/Entertainment Editor) , I Want a Buzz Magazine (intern), Mandarin Newsline (youth arts update columnist), Distink Designs (Guest blogger), whatscheaper.com (associate editor), escapewizard.com (associate editor), Spark TLH (Contributor), the Tallahassee Democrat (contributor), Elan Literary Magazine (Head of Marketing), and the Improviser Newspaper (Opinions Editor).

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