As of 2019, California has an estimate of over 150,000 people experiencing homelessness which is a 17% increase since 2018. As CalMatters states, “California’s homeless population is far more visible than most places with 1 in 4 homeless Americans living in California.” That’s over 26% of California’s population considered homeless and at risk of homelessness. Families, students, and individuals experiencing  housing insecurities, on top of COVID-19 precautions, are seeking relief.

According to the Student Expense and Resource Survey(SEARS), homeless students represent 1% of the total student population in California. The survey also found that the Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino populations are over-represented in the homeless student populations California community colleges (1.7%) and private career colleges (1.5%). Homeless students suffer high rates of difficulties from having little to no family support, to daily obstacles that obscure their success in college. Majority believe paying for college will be more difficult than the classes themselves, as students attending community colleges (58.6%) and Cal State Universities(42.6%) are living with family members or relatives for stability during semesters.

For students experiencing homelessness Sacramento State University’s CARES office is available. “The CARES Office stands for Crisis Assistance and Resource Education Support. Because the COVID relief funds are also called CARES (Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security), many people confuse our office and services with those of the federal government and the CARES relief funds”, says Jessica Thomas, a case manager for CARES.

“Most universities received Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF), which is one element of CARES act funds, intended to support university students in need of financial relief that either incurred a loss of income or increased expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Thomas. “Sacramento State University received a little over $17 million dollars to support university level students in need.”

CARES/HEERF Eligibility:

Eligible students must be enrolled in the Spring 2020 semester, be able to receive financial aid, and must not be fully enrolled in a completely online program. This includes undergraduate, graduate, and professional students as of March 13th, 2020 to receive financial support. Current enrolled students who are not eligible for federal HEERF Emergency Grants may be able to receive different emergency grants supported by other sources of institutional funding, shares Thomas.

What makes students at risk of being  homeless?

“There are many factors that play a part in a person’s ability to be “at risk” for homelessness. Family conflict and unsafe environments (due to mental health, alcohol/drug misuse, sexual/gender identity,etc.) lack of financial resources, interpersonal communication issues due to mental health, etc. At Sacramento State University, we know that 10% of our students experience homelessness at one point in the year, and we anticipate that this number is still true. We also suspect that as students are deciding to go home due to the pandemic or if they have to move back home, not all housing is safe, and many students can have housing insecurity now as they live at home with family and no lease protection but subject to being kicked out over tension or family dynamics.”

Emergency Rental Assistance?

“At our campus we do not have emergency rental assistance, but we do have eviction avoidance funds and other fund sources like our Emergency Grant that students can apply to for emergency financial assistance. Right now these sources are paused for all students (except international and DACA students that are ineligible to receive HEERF funds) as there is federal money available via HEERF that we are directing students to apply to first. Students can apply for additional HEERF funds via the following website:

https://www.csus.edu/student-affairs/emergency-student-information/heerf-emergency-grants.html

CARES Office Website: https://www.csus.edu/student-affairs/crisis-assistance-resource-education-support/

HEERF Information: https://www2.ed.gov/programs/heerf/index.html

Link to SEARS survey:

https://www.csac.ca.gov/sears