IMPERIAL – “Where will my next meal come from?” “Will I have a safe place to sleep tonight?” Those are some of the questions faced by Imperial Valley College students who have no home waiting for them at the end of the school day, according to a news release from Imperial Valley College.
While 44 students were counted as homeless this past year at the college, those numbers are expected to be much higher, according to Bianca Bisi, IVC Student Equity Coordinator. In the press release, Bisi said 23 percent are considered to have housing insecurities and 29 have food insecurities.
“We’re putting the infrastructure in place to capture and monitor those numbers,” said Bisi in the release. She is among those tasked with identifying and helping such students find solutions. Although many may be reluctant to make their plight known, incentives such as recent state legislation giving priority registration to homeless students ages 24 and younger seems to help them self-identify. Her office works closely with the Financial Aid Office to identify and monitor the students.
In identifying who is considered homeless, the college has adopted the McKinney Vento Act’s definition of homelessness, Bisi said. That definition includes those who:
- Lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence;
- Are sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reasons;
- Are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations;
- Are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals;
- Have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for humans;
- Who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations or similar settings;
- Who are migratory children who live in one of the above circumstances.
Additionally, she said, IVC recognizes the definition of “Homeless Youth” as individuals who meet the criteria above and are 24 years of age and younger.
According to the release, housing insecurity is defined by IVC staff as “Not homelessness, but rather a broader set of challenges such as the inability to pay rent, utilities, and the frequent need to move.” Food insecurity is described as restricted access to enough nutritional food for an active and healthy lifestyle, with limited means to obtain it in a socially acceptable manner.
“These are students who historically and through research are identified as being most likely to experience hardship and barriers on campus,” Bisi said in the release.
Eliminating barriers is key to the success of all students who are struggling, but for this particular student population, success on campus hopefully translates into ending their homelessness or food/housing insecurities.
“Studies show that students more likely to face barriers to graduation are more likely to face food and housing insecurities,” she said in the release.
Existing programs such as tutoring and better study skills development were incorporated into a pilot program called Academic Enrichment Services that ended June 9 in which students at risk of homelessness and food and/or housing insecurities were targeted. While the data is still being tabulated, early results reflect the program’s success.
“It worked,” Bisi said. “It shows we can make an effort in academic intervention and hopefully build a relationship to tie into food and housing insecurities.”