A survey commissioned by the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees revealed that one in five of the community college’s 230,000 students are homeless.
The survey respondents comprised of 4.4 percent of all students who were enrolled in the fall of 2016.
Survey data revealed that 19 percent of students reported being recently homeless, while eight percent said they were thrown out of their homes. Among students who had been on foster care, 38 percent reported being homeless for a time in their lives. The poll also showed that four percent of students had been evicted from their previous addresses, while six percent stayed in an abandoned building, car, or other areas not meant for housing. Likewise, the survey revealed that 65 percent of students reported not being able to afford balanced meals, while 60 percent said they were not able to buy more when their food ran out.
In addition, the survey found that specific groups were particularly susceptible to the unfortunate living conditions. According to the poll, black students, Native American students, and those who had been in foster care or served in the Armed Forces were particularly hit hard by homelessness and food insecurity compared with the overall averages. Students who were divorced, who were widowed, or who had children also showed higher food and housing insecurity scores.
“The overwhelming challenge, I was told, is that it was their quality of life and the living conditions that mattered. If you are insecure about where you’re going to get the next meal from, of which almost two-thirds of our students are, and if you don’t know where you’re going to sleep tonight, where almost one out of every five have that, how the heck can you expect us to concentrate on our classes and do well?” Los Angeles Community College district trustee Mike Eng was quoted as saying in DailyNews.com.
According to Eng, the district was in talks with private developers to build below-market housing on one or more campuses. He also noted that the district was negotiating with food vendors to provide free meals to students in need.
National survey also shows high housing, food woes among U.S. community colleges
The recent results were reflective of a national survey published earlier this year, indicating a rising number of housing and food insecurity among community colleges across the United States. To carry out the survey, a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin pooled data from more than 33,000 students at 70 community colleges in 24 states. The survey revealed that 14 percent of community college students reported being homeless, up from only 13 percent in 2015. The research team also found that one-third of students did not have adequate nutrition, a significant increase from only one-fifth of students in 2015.
“Not only did we find challenges of food insecurity and housing insecurity at the less expensive community colleges, we found it at more expensive colleges. We found it at urban schools and rural schools. It’s all over the place…It’s that [the students are] working, and borrowing, and sometimes still falling so short that they’re going without having their basic needs met. Most people think, ‘Well, if you’re really poor, and you really don’t have money to eat, you can get food stamps.’ What they don’t know is that for a college student, who doesn’t have children, to get food stamps requires that they work 20 hours a week,” sociologist and lead researcher Sara Goldrick-Rab said in NPR.org.