Nearly 50,000 students attending the largest public university system in the United States are homeless and a lot more are forced to skip meals.
As per the findings of a new study commissioned by California State University, around 8 to 12 percent of 460,000 students across 23 campuses are homeless, while 21 to 24 percent struggle with food insecurity.
"I reflected a bit on the number, and the number one in five students at Cal State are food insecure are a gasp," Timothy White, chancellor of the Cal State system, stated.
“I think it’s touched a humanity chord in our students and our administrators,” White stated, adding the effort to address the two issues plaguing the students “is viewed as an investment to let these students focus on their studies and have sufficient food and not wonder where the next one will come from.”
For many students, the report came as a much-needed relief that would help bring spotlight to the largely ignored issue.
“It’s very sensitive — not everyone’s talking about it,” said Amber, a CSU Long Beach student who struggled with homelessness. “I’m very outgoing, I have a lot of relationships with my professors and colleagues and whatnot. For those who are not, it’s not as easy to say something. Because we’re in a university, we must not be dealing with those issues, but it’s a stereotype; being homeless means some of us are sleeping in our cars, in friends’ houses.”
White extended the year-long study after discovering the huge scope of the problem. The Cal State system plans an additional two years of study so the university administration can come up with suitable and effective intervention programs.
Rashida Crutchfield, assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Cal State Long Beach, says the measure to tackle homelessness and food insecurity should be implemented in a way that it doesn’t stigmatize the student seeking assistance.
“I don’t think it should be normal for students to experience homelessness or food insecurity, but I do think accessing support for these issues should feel normal,” Crutchfield said.
Homelessness among students in public schools as well has hit a record high in the country. According to a 2013 report, more than 1.1 million students in the U.S. were homeless. The following year, a new record was set when more than 1.2 million public school students were homeless, and nearly 76,000 were living unaccompanied.