Homelessness overlooked on college campuses

The classmate sitting next to you in class today could be homeless. They could be emotionally struggling or a foster youth in need of help. But you’d probably never know.

Students in need typically don’t speak out and, therefore, do not get the help they need. Faculty needs to be proactive in noticing the signs and have the proper emotional and material tools to assist these students.

There are not that many resources when it comes to aiding homeless students and many others do not feel comfortable utilizing campus resources. A former College of San Mateo (CSM) and homeless student Terra Shelton spoke often in her Skyline interview about her fear of using available resources. There are other students who just want to be walked down to these resources and some who admit to avoiding them.

So the question is, what can be done, and how do we help students in unstable living situations feel comfortable getting the help they need?

One major way, is training faculty. This was an idea brought up and being fought for by a Sparkpoint faculty member, a program at Skyline that assists students in reaching financial stability. This faculty member recently spoke with the Skyline View for an article and mentioned the importance of faculty reactions when a student comes to them for emotional support or they notice a student may need simple assistance.

Often times, even though students are encouraged to go to professors, the faculty are unaware of how to properly address the student. Professors can cry, become angry, take the student’s situation personally, or simply have no idea what to say. Sometimes, the student’s life is literally in the professor’s hands, and they have no idea what to do.

This is incredibly unsafe and could be detrimental to the student where a trained faculty is crucial for our district. There is no point encouraging students to seek help if they can not truly receive it.

Another way to help students would be working toward offering more resources, including shelter, feminine products, and counselors that specialize in students’ specific needs. When students are supplied with these resources it allows them to properly focus on their education by taking away some of the worry on how they will survive. Without these things, students can’t focus on anything they’ve learned or read if all they can think about is where they’re going to sleep or when they’ll have their next meal.

A simple way Skyline can provide is requiring professors to keep a few water bottles or granola bars in their offices or classrooms. Notice a student seems constantly fatigued or hungry? Quietly walk by and pass them a granola bar and water bottle. This small act of kindness could go a long way.

It is Skyline’s job to provide a safe campus that strives to aid students in achieving their educational and career goals. Even though, adding more resources and classes may be costly, it is an investment worth striving for as it is an investment in the well-being of our students and our community.