Student homelessness and food insecurity remain concerns amid pandemic

Student homeless and food insecurity at CSUSM are now bigger concerns because of the pandemic.

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Student homeless and food insecurity at CSUSM are now bigger concerns because of the pandemic.

Adrianna Adame, Managing Editor

Student homelessness and food insecurity continue to be ongoing issues at CSUSM, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To combat student homelessness, the Cougar Care Network is working to connect students to resources and information that can help them through financial challenges and to be able to attain basic needs. The Cougar Care Network also is continuing to provide resources and support for students facing academic, mental health, personal and family challenges throughout this time.

The Cougar Care Network has been in contact with more students this semester than in previous ones, due to the situation of the pandemic.

“Yes, we have heard from more students because of the pandemic, who are struggling with housing insecurity. They’ve lost their places to live [because] they’ve lost their jobs. They can no longer afford where they are living and need help to find a place that is cheaper or just finding someone to live with,” said Bonnie Campbell, the CARE Manager at the Cougar Care Network.

As of summer 2020, CSUSM has offered short-term emergency housing, because of a grant given to the university by the Staples Foundation. For up to 30 days, students facing housing insecurity will be able to stay in one of the on-campus residences. Students who need to access on-campus emergency housing have to get in contact by emailing or calling the Cougar Care Network.

“Along with that, then we’ll assist students with connecting to other agencies and we work with them and the local agencies assist us with obtaining permanent housing,” said Campbell.

There are also quite a few on-campus resources that can help assist students who are financially struggling.

Fresh Market Mondays, one of CSUSM’s food distribution programs, is starting back up on Oct. 6. On the first Monday of the month, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Campus Way Circle, the distribution will run similarly to a mobile drive-thru.

The Cougar Pantry is another food distribution program run on campus by ASI that does a drive-thru distribution from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesdays at Campus Way Circle. For both Fresh Market Mondays and the Cougar Pantry, students need to have their student ID on them for when they go to pick up their food.

The ASI Student Emergency Fund (SEF) is another resource that students who are facing an unexpected financial emergency can look into. The SEF is useful in situations such as if a student was laid off due to COVID-19, or if there are any unexpected medical bills that a student doesn’t have the financial ability to take care of.

The Career Center also “provides employment opportunities as they list any job opportunities on-campus, but also off-campus. They too offer assistance to students who may need to apply for unemployment or have questions about unemployment and [if] they can apply,” said Campbell.

Several off-campus resources are also able to help CSUSM students who are struggling to fill their basic needs.

The Oceanside and Escondido-based YMCA Transitional Age Youth (TAY) Academy assists young people between the ages of 15 to 24 who are homeless. Since the Cougar Care Network has a relationship with the TAY Academy, they can directly refer students to this organization.

North County Lifeline, located in Vista, offers assistance to students experiencing homelessness as well. Students up to the age of 24 are eligible for this program.

Students older than 24 can locate off-campus programs by calling 2-1-1, the San Diego non-profit organization hotline which connects individuals to services that can further help them attain basic needs.

Some students may be hesitant about reaching out to the Cougar Care Network and other organizations, because of the stigma of homelessness and food insecurity.

“I’d just let students know that there are so many things out of their hands or out of their control that can happen, that can cause them to lose financial stability and become homeless. It can happen to anyone and is nothing to be ashamed of,” said Campbell. “Know that we are here to support you, no one will judge you or think differently of you because this has happened.”

For further information on finding resources, visit the following sites.

Cougar Care Network:  https://www.csusm.edu/ccn/index.html 

Cougar Pantry: https://www.csusm.edu/asi/pantry/index.html 

TAY Services: https://www.ymcasd.org/community-support/ymca-youth-and-family-services/youth-and-young-adult-development/tay-services

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California