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DSPS Chair/Coordinator Brianne Kennedy delivering a laptop and WiFi hub at City College’s drive-through laptop distribution event. Courtesy photo
Homelessness

San Diego's Homeless Students Need Stability, Resources

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In San Diego, our homeless students are facing great challenges. In addition to finding a safe and secure place to live, they are navigating through a deadly pandemic and protests for social justice. 

San Diego City College (SDCC), which is part of the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD), serves the most underrepresented and vulnerable populations in the region. A 2018 HOPE Lab study found that 60% of U.S. community college students surveyed experienced housing insecurities (62% with SDCCD students) and 18% (same rate for SDCCD students) were homeless. At SDCC, approximately 21% of our student population is homeless and 69% have housing insecurities. About 45% of SDCC students experience both food and housing insecurity together.

Bridging the Technology Gap

Through generous donations from our faculty and staff, the community, and notable alumni like Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal, SDCC has purchased and distributed 500 laptops and Wi-Fi hubs to students, which provided students with months of free internet access. For students who do not have internet access, SDCC established a WiFi parking lot on campus where current students can connect to the internet throughout the week. The college continually assesses the technology needs for our homeless students. 

Expanding Support and Resources

SDCC believes our basic needs efforts are holistic in nature, empowering students to use our resources and learn more on how to help themselves. City has partnered with various organizations and made information readily available on our website for students who are searching for housing, food, technology, health resources, and more. Our comprehensive Basic Needs webpage lists many of our college’s programs and services available for students with housing and food insecurities. 

Resources and information available include our Basic Needs Resource Guide, a San Diego County Housing Resources Directory, a listing of food resources and meal sites, and links to physical and mental health resources. 

Partnerships with San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego, and offering programs like Cal Fresh help provide free, fresh food and produce to those in need. Once a month, SDCC hosts our Hunger Action Days! food distribution events. The drive-through event is open to students, community members, and staff that have food insecurities. The effort also provides an opportunity to expose students to key academic and support services to enhance the college’s student retention efforts. 

Intentional Support for Homeless Students

SDCC is one of 11 community colleges awarded a $1.8 million grant over three years to help a growing number of homeless and housing insecure students find reliable shelter. The grant is funded through a $9 million, College Homeless and Housing Insecure Pilot Program to embark on sustainable initiatives aimed at promptly finding housing and supporting rapid rehousing efforts for community college students. The focus of the grant is to empower students to actively use resources to ensure their student achievement. A task force has been created of faculty, staff, and students dedicated to planning and coordinating this effort. 

The need for stability and resources are more critical now than ever. While transitioning our entire course offerings to remote learning during the beginning of the pandemic, SDCC has been intentional with our efforts to help support our homeless students. Our standing relationships with the Monarch School – a comprehensive school designed to educate homeless youth, and K-12 students facing homeless have been key in the development of our efforts to support our college students. It is necessary to take a proactive approach to addressing homelessness head-on, and strategizing to equip and empower our students is the crux of the support that City College is engaging in for our students. 

For more information on our Basic Needs Resources, please visit www.sdccd.edu

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About the Author

Denise Whisenhunt

Denise Whisenhunt is the vice president of student services at San Diego City College.

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About the Author

Marciano Perez, Jr

Marciano Perez, Jr. is the dean of student affairs at San Diego City College.

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