California’s largest public university is working to find — and help — its homeless students | Written by NewOk

A recent study shows 1 in 10 of nearly 475,000 students at Cal State don’t have a steady place to sleep each night — and one in five don’t have regular access to food.

The only way to get an official number of homeless students is to look at financial aid applications, but that’s not always accurate, The Los Angeles Times found. Financial aid records show there are about 56,588 students in the U.S. who identify as homeless, but Cal State found as many as 47,000 students — just within the Cal State registry — lack a fixed place to sleep each night.

“There were times I thought about dropping out,” Shellv Candler, a Cal State student, told the Times. “But going to school was my escape — to be able to take all that anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, to take all of that and put it into something as proactive as my education…. This is my chance to be able to do something with my life.”

In efforts to help keep students like Candler enrolled, Cal State is working with its 23 campuses to help provide them with the necessities. The Times reported the biggest public university in the United States, which costs about $5,500 a year to attend, is trying various experiments to help those in need, including building food pantries, offering emergency grants, giving hotel vouchers, providing counseling and more.

The Times pointed out just how hard it can be to collect data regarding homelessness or malnutrition because it’s not required information and because of the associated stigmas. By speaking with and interviewing students, faculty members learned many were unaware homelessness extends beyond sleeping on the street every night.

The university hopes to start intervention programs across its campuses that will offer emergency housing and food pantries for students who need them. The Times reports there are also bills going through the state legislature that, if passed, would require schools to have a person responsible for working with homeless students on every state campus as well as dorms that would remain open when classes are out of session.

The findings ultimately will help Cal State launch intervention support programs on every campus, Crutchfield said. Eleven — including Long Beach — offer some sort of support, such as food pantries or emergency housing. Others have a long way to go.

A number of higher-education bills have also been moving through the California legislature, including one to designate homeless point persons on state campuses and another to keep some dorms open when classes are out of session.

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