Homelessness research seeks to create effective student resources

Researchers encourage students to contribute by sharing their experiences

Cory Kay, News Editor

Professor of Sociology Dr. Jill Weigt and fourth-year Sociology major Rachel Sotomayor are conducting research with hopes to create programs that will effectively help CSUSM students who face homelessness.

Weigt and Sotomayor are asking for students who have faced homelessness or food insecurity during their college career to participate in the research by sharing their personal experiences. These personal stories can help Weigt and Sotomayor discover the best ways the campus can help students through programs, outreach and other resources.

Inspiration to carry out the study arose from Weigt and Sotomayor sharing the experience of being housing insecure. Weigt faced this issue twice in high school and Sotomayor also faced this during college. Another reason they began to research the topic was that they encountered a study focusing on student homelessness across the CSU system.

“The CSU study was released which estimated that 12 and 24 percent of CSU students were housing and food insecure, respectively,” Weigt said. “We were startled by these numbers and decided we needed to know more about what was happening and how we could advocate for students at CSUSM.

Weigt explained that homelessness and food insecurity can impact students in a number of ways.

“Students who are struggling financially sometimes can’t afford to get to school or can’t do assignments because they don’t have access to the internet or power for their computers,” Weigt said. “It goes without saying that all of this is distracting and makes it difficult to cope with going to college …”

Sotomayor commented on the ultimate goal of being able to partner with both community and campus organizations once the study has been completed.

“It is my hope that with this research study [at] CSUSM … we can connect with other universities and students, so that we can bring not only attention to this social issue, but also quickly find ways we can bring resources to those who need it,” Sotomayor said.

Another goal of the research is to shed light on the topic as a social issue and to address misunderstandings of student homelessness.

“Being without food and/or shelter can undermine your confidence because being poor is so stigmatized in our society,” said Weigt.

Sotomayor added, “I have … had a few people laugh at the idea that college students are homeless.  While I understand the confusion between the dichotomy of  having access to college but no food and housing, it is a very real circumstance for some students.”

While the research will likely continue into fall 2016, Weigt and Sotomayor said that they hope students will come forward to share their experiences. Students who choose to participate will be interviewed in a one-on-one setting; the interviews will typically be one hour long.

Student who are interesting in contributing to the research can contact Dr. Jill Weigt at [email protected] or Rachel Sotomayor at [email protected].