This article was contributed by Gavilan College.
Even as they work two jobs and attend classes, many community college students also face dire housing insecurity.
“We know from the research that student success is directly tied to having enough to eat and a safe place to stay,” said Dr. Kathleen Rose, superintendent/president of Gavilan College. “At Gavilan we have known that for a long time.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 2 p.m., the college is sponsoring a webinar introducing a new student service, the House Sharing Program.
“Gavilan is unique, with a large service area,” said Annette Gutierrez, supervisor of the CalWORKs, Fresh Success and Food Pantry programs for the college. Students from Santa Clara, San Benito and Monterey counties enroll in classes at Gavilan.
The college will work with Catholic Charities to match housing seekers and providers in Santa Clara County. Gavilan will also partner with Youth Alliance in San Benito County, which helps youth and their families in need of housing. The program includes emergency funding to prevent youth homelessness in San Benito and Monterey counties.
“The greater community and some people on campus are not aware of how widespread the housing insecurity issue is,” said Gutierrez. This new program expands awareness and creates direct, lasting solutions to Gavilan students’ housing insecurities.
A survey of 40,000 students attending more than 55 California community colleges revealed:
- 50% experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days
- 60% experienced housing insecurity in the previous year
- 19% experienced homelessness in the previous year
A new grant funds housing assistance as a student service
The college was tapped by the Chancellor’s Office as one of 14 community colleges to launch the statewide college Homeless and Housing Insecure Pilot (HHIP) program, funded through Senate Bill 74. Gavilan was awarded a three-year, $1.5K grant to partner with regional community agencies offering housing services.
Catholic Charities has a tradition of offering housing services. Its House Sharing program matches unrelated people with affordable housing options where students can rent a room and share kitchen, laundry and living spaces.
“House sharing, or renting a room to a Gavilan student, is a great opportunity to address housing insecurity in our community,” said Susan Castillo, program director of housing services for the nonprofit agency. “The program emphasizes the need, strikes a chord for people who weren’t thinking about this, to realize they could be one of the homeowners making a match and helping youth.”
Catholic Charities brings housing expertise to the partnership, with Gavilan College the expert on the student side. As a team, they will grow the inventory of shared housing opportunities in the South Bay, where rent is currently unaffordable to many students.
Gavilan College and Youth Alliance have developed a partnership as well. Youth Alliance works to stabilize the individual and family, and helps to locate housing. Using HHIP funding, the college assists with move in costs and ongoing expenses.
Youth Alliance offers additional services for youth ages 18-24. “We have case management, mental health therapy sessions, food vouchers,” said Armando Gonzalez, community outreach specialist. “If you don’t even have a couch to surf on, we can help with emergency hotel vouchers.”
“Long term, stable housing helps students do what they need to do,” he said. A Gavilan College graduate himself, Gonzalez relates to student needs and stress. He helps them connect to the local food bank, low cost utilities and other community resources to successfully prepare them for managing their budgets and living in San Benito County.
The college has launched this new student service, finalized its intake and referral process and hired new staff. Understanding the stigma associated with homelessness guided development of the intake procedures.
“Students just need to request a confidential referral,” said Gutierrez. Staff, faculty and administrators referring students are reminded not to ask for documentation or any additional questions. Educational presentations show a video, Count Me, illustrating the lives of people who have faced homelessness.
“We will raise funds and build community awareness about this new program,” said Gutierrez. The state grant covers three years to build the program, during which time the college will prepare a financial base for future operations.
“I am so pleased that Gavilan was awarded this grant to provide immediate and responsive support for the basic needs of our students,” said Dr. Rose. “We are now even more able to ensure that our students meet their academic goals in a fully supportive learning environment.”
To learn more about the Gavilan College HHIP program, email Annette Gutierrez. If you or someone you know has an extra room in the home, please call the House Sharing Program at (408) 325-5134.