Homelessness and Hunger Plaguing the CSU

Homelessness and Hunger Plaguing the CSU

By Sydney Beck

(*Editor’s note: All the names of students have been changed in order to protect their identity and prevent repercussions from future professors or from the University.)

Around the country, there is an epidemic of houseless individuals due to ongoing inflation and employment loss. The week of Nov.14 was Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week. Like most school awareness weeks, it came and went, garnering attention towards issues presenting current homeless populations. CI’s campus hosted a few events to help spread awareness for the cause while gathering support for the homeless and hunger resources here at CI. But how deep does this homeless epidemic fall? How much is it affecting your campus and classmates?

Homeless youth in college is becoming a national issue. According to research done by the CSU system, roughly 11% of students in the CSU system as of 2019 have experienced homelessness at least once a year. That is one in ten students in the system. That is 11% of your campus switching from couch to couch or sleeping in their car during the winter holidays. This isn’t even factoring in the increase that has come from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Between the years of 2018 and 2019, homelessness among students increased by more than 16%; imagine what that number looks like after 3 years of COVID-19. California alone has 23% of the nation’s overall homeless youth, accounting for over 300,000 students (about half the population of Wyoming). These are students unable to pick up a second job due to their coursework while still having to pay tuition fees on top of that. These students, dedicated to pursuing a higher education, are facing hurdles never imagined by many college students.

This is affecting our students’ everyday life. More than the health factors attributed to homeless students, there are also debilitating issues presented to their mental health. During Homeless and Hunger Awareness week John Spoor Broome Library posed a public question to CI students asking if they had ever experienced homelessness and to share their experience. Out of the 93 students who answered, 35 had said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their life. Many anonymous students shared the hard trials they had to endure to make it to the campus. “Your environment and sense of peace and safety, even if in a car, affects focus,” wrote one student, and another wrote, “couch surfing on top of school and two jobs is impossible.”

You do not have to be sleeping on the street to qualify as homeless. For many CI residents, the dorms are their primary housing. This is where their mail is sent, their family comes to visit, and the place they call home. And this home still proceeds to kick them out during winter Holidays or directly after Spring finals. Mark Hoffman* a third year health science major shared, “I shouldn’t have to worry about the next place I’ll be living during finals. It’s hard enough as it is to balance the stress of finals, now I worry after submission that all that work will lead to four weeks sleeping on the sidewalk or a homeless shelter.”

This is not the only issue. Even those with the satisfaction of a roof over their head may have to be concerned with how they put meals on the table. One in five CSU students experience food insecurity; they must skip meals to pay for their next semester of work. In fact, the Channel Islands itself is in a designated food desert, meaning that even if the students have the funds to buy food, their access to good nutritious foods is limited. You think that having to study in your car is bad, try missing lunch and breakfast before it. These are the intellectual minds that will go on to produce our future, and yet they are not even provided with the basic necessities to make sure they get there.

There are many things being done by CI and other CSU campuses to account for this struggle. CI has produced meal swipe programs to get available meals to people in need by donation. They have introduced the Basic Needs Program that offers a food pantry and other materials needed for students. The Dolphin Guardian Scholars program is a program to help impacted homeless students at CI as they pave their way to success. The staff and administration clearly hold great care for the students impacted by these issues, but is their care enough to truly make an impact on these students’ lives?

There is not much for the students to help with such a global epidemic, for many students reading this are victims of this said problem. Many Homeless Organizations feel that for these issues to change proper legislation and programs must be passed to protect these students. The more attention that is garnered towards the seriousness of this issue, the more likely that change will happen. Even if you do feel helpless towards this issue, there are many ways beyond being knowledgeable that can help. Ventura’s Rescue Mission Alliance is always taking new applications for volunteers to help with their ongoing homelessness programs. The Ventura Rescue Mission Alliance provides refuge, recovery, and restoration for homeless individuals in your community. Their volunteer applications are provided on their website under volunteering, and they encourage more students and homeless students at CI to take advantage of these programs.

If you are currently struggling with homelessness or food stability, know you are not alone. This campus has a thriving student population that despite these issues, perseveres and works effortlessly to obtain their degree. It is important to acknowledge that challenging work and continue advocating for all CSU students regardless of situation.