Homelessness has always been an issue in San Francisco and other big cities but it has become even more prevalent in SF in the last couple years due to gentrification and rising rental cost.
The tech and major companies that have moved into the area are pushing many out of their homes. The stereotype of the typical homeless person has been changed in SF through the many people in the workforce and students who are also homeless.
SFSU has been aware of their homeless student population for a couple of years now and how that affects the performance of not only the homeless students, but their student body as a whole.
A Buena Vista school in SF is addressing this problem by letting homeless students and their families stay overnight at the school. Not having a place to live and not knowing where your next meal is coming from not only makes it hard to get work done and be a successful student, but causes stress in all areas of this person’s life from physical to mental.
Shelters in SF are overcrowded according to an article by C.W. Nevius in the SF Chronicle.
They are also hard to get into, and even if someone is admitted it is not the most stable environment when you are trying to get homework done or study. So what is SFSU doing for their homeless students?
According to Eugene Chelberg, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, 10% of CSU students are experiencing difficulty with housing, “One in ten California State University students are experiencing housing instability,” Chelberg commented. “While accurate statistics regarding San Francisco State are currently unavailable, the campus is committed to supporting students experiencing homelessness through the Basic Needs Initiative [basicneeds.sfsu.edu],” Chelberg said.
Basic Needs is a SFSU program that strives to give students equal opportunities by embracing ‘systematic solutions.’
According to their website, “Basic needs in the higher education setting refers to those things that are necessary for students to be active and engaged learners, with an equitable opportunity for full participation in curricular and co-curricular offerings of the University. These basic needs can include, but are not limited to, safety, access to quality mental health services, food security, and housing security.”
Chelberg went on to say that some of the programs available to homeless students are the Hope Crisis Fund and Emergency Housing through Residential Life.
The Hope Crisis Fund offer students financial assistance when they are in a crisis situation, “This fund supports students who are undergoing a crisis that leaves them in a situation that is beyond their control,” Chelberg says.
Hope Crisis Fund is a helpful resource for students who are in a situation whether it be financially, mentally or physically to help them stay in track in school and overcome whatever battle they are facing and is an especially helpful resource to homeless students.
“Receiving help from the HOPE Crisis Fund could be the deciding factor that allows a student to stay on track to graduation. Students who receive assistance will realize that they’re not alone, that someone cares,” Chelberg commented.
The Emergency Housing through Residential Life program helps students that are in a housing crisis whether it be that they are homeless or can’t afford they’re current rent or need a temporary place to stay.
The Emergency Housing through Residential Life program seeks to help students that are in a housing crisis. “Residential Life has established a pilot emergency housing program,” Chelberg says. “While limited in scope, the University is seeking funding in order to expand the program in the future. Students in immediate need should contact the Dean of Students Office,” Chelberg suggests.
There are some amenities offered by the SFSU campus that all students can take advantage of but that might be especially vital to homeless students. Rebecca Toporek, a professor in the counseling department at SFSU says,
“I believe the gym is open for students to shower, financial aid has emergency short term loans, students can apply for CalFresh (food stamps) and use them at the Farmers Market as well as other places, the university is developing a partnership with local food banks,” Toporek commented.
Many programs that would assist homeless students are still a work in progress and there is no easy fix but there is help out there if they look for it. Since the prevalence of homeless students at SFSU is a relatively recent problem, many programs are just getting started and with more awareness and contribution can grow and more can always be done.
Toporek suggests that SFSU has “Semester long lockers for belongings, on campus hostel, showers (I believe this is already available), housing matching. I think it would also be great to have reduced meal tickets for City Eats,” Toporek hopes for the future.
There are many services available to SFSU students outside of the school some being Project Homeless Connect and Everyday Connect but they would be competing with the rest of the homeless population of SF, which makes wait lists long and not always the best option for those in need of immediate assistance.
“It would be too difficult to summarize all the services available, again, they are not always that easy to access and the waitlist and bureaucracy is often difficult,” Toporek warns.
Since homelessness is not only a housing issue and affects the individual’s well being all around, many services in many areas would be helpful to these individuals.
“I think a stable place to live, jobs that pay enough to cover expenses without having to commute long distances, and counseling for stress, mental health, and family issues is important,” Toporek comments.