Unseen Victims of COVID-19: Homeless College Students

Campus closures due to COVID-19 result in food insecurity and homelessness for American college students. HMIS programs can aid colleges and community programs in coordinating aid for students in need. 

Since February, panic and preventive measures have consumed and transformed the American lifestyle and economy. The United States has felt the impact of COVID-19 with the rest of the world, with national confirmed cases exceeding one million and the death toll reaching over 80,000. With such staggering numbers on the rise it’s easy for the diagnosed and deceased to be the immediate focus of the pandemic; however, the effects of the pandemic have spread to affect many more than the obvious afflicted. 

COVID-19 and Student Homelessness

The United States has over 1.3 million homeless students with an additional portion reporting insecurity in their food and housing. Many students who are homeless or struggling to maintain basic living standards rely on their colleges for resources, especially when students receive food via campus meal plans and utilize the campus facilities for hygiene needs. However, due to COVID-19 campus closures, many homeless students have lost these resources. Many struggling students have suddenly found themselves without housing, food programs, and even physical/mental health resources all previously provided through campus programs.

Even students who are typically secure in their finances and resources have found themselves unemployed due to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. With employment opportunities being scarce during the pandemic, previously secure students will soon find themselves facing homelessness as well, if they have not already. 

An Invisible Problem

One particular challenge presented by COVID-19 in aiding student homelessness is identification. With the pandemic closing campuses across the country, student welfare liaisons are no longer able to observe the needs of students on campus. Additionally, students in unstable circumstances will be even more difficult to locate with their temporary shelters changing rapidly. 

Coming Together to Help

Now, more than ever, it’s important for communities to come together, be vigilant, and be sympathetic to the needs of student homelessness during the pandemic. It first begins with identification of inflicted students, followed by the cooperation of community organizations to help provide shelter and aid. Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), such as those provided by EccoVia Solutions, help connect those affected by homelessness via services and providers within the community. HMIS software also allows providers to track the status and needs of homeless individuals in a single, cloud-based platform. Utilizing HMIS programs could allow universities and community programs to monitor and coordinate assistance for homeless students.

Sources:

https://thenext100.org/during-covid-19-homeless-students-need-a-shelter-to-shelter-in-place/

https://www.schoolhouseconnection.org/covid19-and-homelessness/

https://www.curbed.com/2020/3/17/21181809/housing-campus-college-student-homeless

https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/HOPE_realcollege_National_report_digital.pdf

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