Investing in our youth

With university tuition and living costs on the rise, college students have become increasingly attractive for those ways on looking to save on any little thing they can to get through school. Of the 33,000 students across 70 colleges in 24 U.S. states these students, around two-thirds are “food insecure,” meaning they have limited or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods. Around half of these students are also “housing insecure,” meaning they are forced to move often or cannot afford rent or utilities. Students are not where they sleep, live, or what their life situations are at any given time. Negative perceptions of other people can impact their reality of they let it. Being homeless or having food insecurity doesn’t change their talent, IQ, identity, if anything, it pushes them harder to do well in school to be able to get out of this.

Some often wonder, how do people become homeless? Do they really use the money for food, shelter or drugs? Some people were born into shelters, some never got the chance to get out, some were in foster care and now education is the only way out. I recently was able to house a student for a month and a half during my short time here in San Francisco. He said he felt helpless, insecure, and felt like his life had been spiraling out of control. The sad thing, he’s not the only student out there struggling. He doesn’t have a reliable work schedule to make ends meet, and is also taking a job that has nothing to do with his major or career.

In other ways, students may be getting loans out to finance their education. Financial aid is also an option, but if one can’t find a place to call home, how can one have a stable mentality to be able to study on top of their housing crisis or food insecurities. By applying for financial aid, you can get some grants that cover your tuition, and you receive some money back of what wasn’t used. Some of that money for students could mean a lot to them when they don’t have much. You must be a full-time student, taking 12 units and keeping up with your grades. The Lack of these resources cause a student to withdrawal from a class, leading to two classes, the semester and eventually dropping out completely. Despite having a part-time job making ends meet, students are still struggling and maintaining a place to call home.

There has to be a better way, a way to help those in need. During my time housing my friend, he showed me a few things of what you can do as a student at our very own campus. Every Monday, there’s a student pantry where students are allowed to go get food with just their student id. It’s not a permanent fix, but the thought of having some food to eat, brings comfort to those who have so little. The food pantry provides students with a wide variety juice, fruits, veggies, bars to snack on and some sort of cereal. For the school to team up with whomever they are with helping those students in need was a big help as I overheard students say “they get to eat for the week”.

The hardest part for students that are homeless is the lack of student dorms here in San Francisco State, which provides housing for about 4,000 of its nearly 30,000 students. The long wait lists don’t even get you a guaranteed spot for the semester, also causing students to drop out as they wait for student housing. With that not being available, it leaves students to rent from the general housing pool that sky rockets the rent up compared to what you could be paying for the year in the dorms. Even then, you have overcrowded apartments or houses where students are renting out living and dining rooms or even garages just to get by.

What can we do as a community, school, students to help those in need? Partnering up with a non-profit shelter to provide housing just for its students. To keep them off the streets and into a place to be able to temporarily call home to study, and be able to get that chance to succeed in their education. Providing more on campus jobs, more suitable to their needs in their major. We need to help our students, make them believe in themselves, that there is a way out, engage with them, encourage them and offer them hope. This is their city and school as much as it is everyone else’s. We need to work together to be able to make a difference for our future leaders and generations.

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