System-wide CSU study to survey housing and food services

Studio art major Arthur Savangsky poses with a sculpture in progress which he forged from metal and concrete. Savangsky is a former foster youth who has been involved with the Guardian Scholars Program at SF State for almost a year and credits the program for helping him secure stable housing. (Helen Tinna / Xpress)

This month marked the outset of a yearlong study of services conducted by the California State University on all 23 campuses to identify students struggling with housing and food issues.

CSU Long Beach social work professor Rashida Crutchfield will head the study and said the number of students facing these problems is underreported.

“I think the population of students with housing and food insecurity is largely hidden,” Crutchfield said. “In general, people believe when students make it to college they generally wouldn’t be experiencing these problems and students are less likely to disclose they are experiencing these issues.”

The study will produce a report summarizing current services offered as well as data-driven best practices to share within the CSU system, according to a press release from CSU Public Affairs April 23.

Studio art major Arthur Savangsky is a former foster youth who has been involved with the Guardian Scholars Program at SF State for close to a year and said the program helped him secure stable housing.

“Last semester I was kind of homeless, not in a sense of sleeping on the streets, but I just couldn’t be where I was because it wasn’t the best place for me to live,” Savangsky said.

GSP at SF State is based out of the Educational Opportunity Program and serves foster youth in their pursuit of a college degree. The program has about 80 active student members, according to the program’s career planning manager, Melanie Ramirez-Carpio.

Studio art major Arthur Savangsky poses with a sculpture in progress which he forged from metal and concrete. Savangsky is a former foster youth who has been involved with the Guardian Scholars Program at SF State for almost a year and credits the program for helping him secure stable housing. (Helen Tinna / Xpress)

Studio art major Arthur Savangsky poses with a sculpture in progress which he forged from metal and concrete. Savangsky is a former foster youth who has been involved with the Guardian Scholars Program at SF State for almost a year and credits the program for helping him secure stable housing. (Helen Tinna / Xpress)

GSP helps members by offering grocery store gift cards for emergencies and providing free on-campus meals and housing over the summer, Ramirez-Carpio said.

“Our students, on top of academic stress, have daily life stress and we want to support them and alleviate that so they can be successful both inside and outside the classroom,” Ramirez-Carpio said.

GSP assisted Savangsky with locating a shelter and in November helped him secure housing at Larkin Street Youth Center’s Edwards II House.

“I got my own room, bathroom and all that, so having a place to sleep is cool for me,” Savangsky said. “The program at (SF) State really helped me get secure and is still working with me now.”

Stable housing has provided a much better environment for school and studying, Savangsky said.

“Before, it was hard to focus in class knowing that I was kind of homeless,” Savangsky said. “Now it is much easier for me to do my work and I’m not thinking ‘am I going to have a place to sleep tonight?’”

Director of SF State’s Student Housing Program Philippe Cumia said financial aid helps many SF State students afford housing in the City.

“The majority of students attending SF State use financial aid awards to pay for housing,” Cumia said. “Financial aid is able to calculate these awards based on each individual financial situation.”

The National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator estimates both on- and off-campus housing at SF State cost over $13,000 in 2014-2015, while the total cost of an education including fees, tuition, housing and other expenses is approximately $24,206 for students with California residency. The site indicates that housing is the largest cost SF State students face.

At SF State, 70 percent of students received some type of financial aid during the 2012-2013 school year and 53 percent received aid through a grant or scholarship with an average of $10,220 awarded, according to the site.

The housing office offers payment options for students with financial constraints, according to Cumia, who said arrangements can be made with housing financial staff.

SF State’s housing office also works with a number of rental assistance programs in San Francisco and collaborates with other programs on campus.

“One of the best programs for former foster care students is the Guardian Scholars (Program) that provides former foster youth academic, social, financial and emotional support,” Cumia said.

Identifying housing and food services like GSP in the study will help create collaboration and shared best practices among CSU campuses, according to Crutchfield. She also said talking about these programs helps reduce negative stigmas.

“The more we increase awareness and talk about this in a way that is not specialized, but in fact incorporated in to the things that we do, the better responses we have and the more we normalize students’ experiences,” Crutchfield said.