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Homeless Students Hiding in Plain Sight

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People have fond memories of college. While many of us hold on to those memories of late night pizza and making lifelong friends, a growing number of college students have different memories. In a survey of 70 community colleges the Wisconsin Hope Lab found that 14% of the 33,000 students that responded identified as homeless.

14%.

That’s 4,620 students. 4,620 students trying to go to college while not having a place to live. The survey also shows that about half of community college students are housing insecure. Meaning they struggle with paying rent, utilities, or having to move frequently. College can be challenging enough, but add in an unstable living situation to the mix and the difficulties begin to stack up.

Students in this situation are more likely to work long hours at low paying jobs. They get less sleep and can have less access to technology and the internet, a must have for successfully completing almost any college course. Not to mention the psychological effects of not knowing if you have a place to sleep that night.

The first step of any social issue is to identify the problem. In many ways, we have gotten stuck on this step. Studying homelessness has always been a challenge. With the hidden nature of homelessness and the diversity of people that are affected we only get a snapshot of this social problem. But we have a chance to change that. Studying homelessness on college campuses provides a unique opportunity: a database of people that can be identified, reached out to, surveyed, and interviewed. This is an opportunity to find a way to support this population, to create programs, and increase their chances of completing college.

Because college is hard enough.