Helping students with nowhere to stay

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Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”.

Nowadays, in the USA, many young people decide to continue towards higher education with the hope to achieve a better life. Quite a few of them are first-generation students intheir family, and education may be their only chance to break the cycle of poverty. While the public financial aid help has increased, and more low-to-middle income students can now afford attending classes, getting into college is often not the biggest issue. What is troubling many students today is that they are facing homelessness and even hunger.

An issue bigger than we think

Being a student is not always as fun as it may seem. Student life also comes with responsibilities, especially for those who worry about where to spend the night. To our huge surprise, homeless students are not a minority. Moreover, they have increased in number during the last decade.

According to a 2017 study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab at UW-Madison, 13 to 14 percent of college students in 24 states were homeless. In 2018, the survey was repeated among “43,000 college students at 66 schools”. It showed that 36 percent were not just housing insecure but also food insecure.

These results come from surveys, which means that the real numbers may be drastically higher. Not all students like to report themselves as homeless because of the stigma surrounding this issue. These students have to sacrifice so much to become lawyers, doctors, or artists. They have professional ambitions and do not want to be associated with homelessness.

Nevertheless, during the last years, the research and coverage on this issue have increased. Several young students have shared their stories through interviews.

A true story

The CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan interviewed several homeless students on campus at the Humboldt State University CA to get a better insight on the issue.

One was Jasmine Bigham, a senior college student at the beginning of 2019. During her university years, she lived in her car, in a big trailer, couchsurfed, and then moved to a van. Every day she would wake up early to go to the women’s locker room on campus to take a shower and then get ready for the lectures.

Despite being on the Ford Family Foundation scholarship, Jasmine got to the point where she could not afford rising housing costs.

“There were some emotional points, you know, where I just was like crying ’cause it was hard,” she confessed. “It’s how I think about things – I put myself here, so I had to deal with it.”

When asked why she decided to go through all of this, Ms.Bigham’s answer was: “I’m gonna go become something. And I’m gonna succeed in it and keep trying, you know? If things are hard, you just gotta keep trying.”

Students like Jasmine Bigham are many, and their resilience and motivation to continue through their studies despite homelessness inspire us and increase our admiration. In fact, these students’ determination is already a competitive advantage for when they are ready to join the labor force.

Understanding the roots of the problem

There are several reasons why homelessness is a threat to college students’ wellbeing and future success.

  • Lack of a proper support system

So far, the attempts from the government as well as many private donors have been to encourage all students, regardless of their family income, to continue with their education. Financial aid has been offered to cover tuition and living expenses.

However, there is no safety net for students who cannot afford housing, books, or even food. During holidays, when the dorms close, these students are homeless or at the mercy of couch surfing.

  • Rising housing and food prices

Food and housing prices are rising yearly due to inflation and different economic reasons. Unfortunately, it can be offset neither by the financial aid nor by any part-time job.

  • Difficulty in identifying the problem

As mentioned before, these students do not match the stereotype of a homeless person. They are intelligent, educated, and hard-working. They do not want to be part of the stereotype and hence, very rarely admit that they need help.

Often, these students remain invisible on campus, choosing to live a lonely life, concealing their homeless status.

Initiatives helping homeless students

There have been several public and private initiatives to assist homeless students.

For example, a group of UCLA students has opened a homeless shelter, which offers nine beds, a study room, and meals. Also, students from Temple University in Philadelphia have raised funds from donations to support a scholarship that will provide students with housing and food security.

From the government side, the states of Washington, California, and Massachusetts are focusing on bills that will create pilot programs to “house and feed homeless college students”.

Corsia contributes

Corsia Logistics believes that every student is entitled to equal access to the curriculum and support with food or housing to get through college. That is why we have developed our pilot scholarship opportunity program open to all students from across the US. Our initiative is tightly connected with the skill to write purposefully – an essential skill in life and business. Because we see the ability to communicate well as key to success in any industry, we want to reward students who are passionate and work hard, and are willing to try.

Hence, our annual scholarship represents a great opportunity to receive some financial help, while writing on logistics topic of your choice. We are glad that the initiatives to correct the problem of homelessness are increasing and are part of this. Each of us can do something to further alleviate the issue. We hope other will join us and pay it forward. Thank you!

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About the Author:

Ina Gjika is a banker who loves to dive into philosophy and dance to the music beats. Ina also enjoys getting lost into her bookshelves and smelling freshly ground coffee, while dreaming about exploring the world. She holds two B.A majors in Business Administration and Political Science & International Relations, as well as a B.A minor in Economics.
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