Help Homeless Youth during the Holidays

Stories on the plight of the homeless during the recent cold weather have focused on adults living in encampments. But in San Jose there is another homeless population that rarely gets any attention: homeless college students. Earlier this month CNN Money wrote about a homeless college student who was turned out of her Midwest school during winter break. Where do homeless students living in local college dorms go during winter break?

Most colleges assume students go home, although some schools do allow students to stay in the dorms if they pay extra. Unfortunately, many students who are living on fixed income or loans do not have the funds to pay for the extra time. Youth aging out of the foster care system who obtained scholarship funds to attend college and live on campus often seek temporary housing from homeless shelters during semester breaks. Or they beg to stay with families of other students. A few years ago, after a number of former foster college students called Bill Wilson Center for a place to stay during winter and summer breaks, we developed a housing subsidy program for some of these youth.

San Jose State University (SJSU) is starting a four-week winter break and most students are returning home for the holidays. Bill Wilson Center is currently supporting four former foster students who are staying through the holidays. They have no home to return to.

SJSU has a new policy requiring incoming freshman from more than 30 miles away to live on campus. Studies have shown that students who live on campus have a higher success rate of completing college than commuter students.

As a result of the university’s new policy, more will need to be done to assure that students don’t become temporarily homeless during breaks. With housing costs rising in the area, most students cannot afford temporary housing off-campus. Hopefully, many of these students have found shelter with dorm-mate families for the holidays.

The next time your child comes home from college, you might want to ask if their roommate had a place to go—or anyone else in the dorm. What could be a better gift than giving a young person a home during the holidays?

Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.

Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.

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