Many students might not feel anxious when thinking about winter, spring, or summer break. However, while they arrange their travel plans, or activities to do with their families, thousands of students are desperately trying to figure out where to live during those upcoming weeks or months. There is a prevalent problem across the UC system that is somewhat overshadowed by other issues such as food insecurity. While the UC system has taken major strides for tackling food insecurity, for example, by instituting the UC Global Food Initiative, little has been done about housing insecurity, which is not mutually exclusive with food insecurity most of the time.
The Basic Needs report from UC San Diego describes housing insecurity in terms of “unaffordable housing costs, poor housing quality, overcrowding, [couchsurfing] and homelessness.” According to a study by Temple University, about 36 percent of university students across 66 institutions in the United States, were facing housing insecurity in the last year and 9 percent of university students were homeless in the last year. This study also shows that these insecurities disproportionately affect marginalized students, even though they exhibit the same amount of academic effort as other students. Housing insecurity takes many forms, and unfortunately, there has been no network set up or crisis management center at UCSD to help these students who are managing their affairs on their own.
Housing insecurity takes many forms and affects everyone differently, which in turn makes it difficult to find an all encompassing solution to this problem. Financial aid challenges such as timing of financial aid disbursements can lead to gaps within student’s finances, which can prevent them from securing a housing contract and cause a momentary destabilization in their life. In addition, for those living off campus in La Jolla, the cost of living is extremely high compared to other locations in San Diego. However, La Jolla provides an opportune location close to the school for those who lack any means of transportation to live farther away. Therefore, many students need to bear the cost burden — one they might not be able to afford. In addition, housing insecurity can also arise among international students who face economic challenges to return home when international fares are extremely expensive. Finally, housing insecurity can translate to students who do not have a stable home or who are homeless and rely on school housing to pursue their studies.Their options are very limited when university holidays and breaks come around where they must face going back to an unstable situation or couchsurfing.
UCSD somewhat addresses this problem with certain grants and loans, including the Emergency Loan Program which allows students to borrow up to $1500. These loans helps immediate needs but do little to address chronic problems such as housing. This program addresses those students who rely on financial aid to secure their housing contract, but doesn’t help those students who are homeless and need a stable home. Other than this loan program and other grants, UCSD has not really proposed any lasting solutions but does plan on providing students with emergency housing relief. This could be executed with setting aside on-campus housing vacancies for students in need of emergency housing. However, with the increasing inflow of students every year, the probability that vacancies with on-campus housing is low. Evidence of this is already apparent with undergraduate housing contracts being limited to one year instead of two, given the massive overflow.
A student at UC Berkeley recently took it upon herself to solve her own disprivilege of being homeless while being a full-time student, and created the Homeless Student Union at Berkeley. This union has an emergency network that connects students who lose their houses to Berkeley residents who can immediately provide them them with a place to stay. The union is able to streamline services in cooperation with the Basic Needs Coalition to those underserved communities on campus. This facilitates and expedites the process of providing services and aid to those in need, rather than going through a difficult bureaucratic process that the university must pursue to help those students.
UCSD should follow this model and expand the programs of the Basic Needs Coalition, which is an organization on campus that is dedicated to providing the basic necessities for college student such as nutritious food, stable housing, and financial wellness resources. In addition, UCSD should follow the strides of the Berkeley student and establish a Homeless Student Union. Furthermore, UCSD should highlight and start a conversation about housing insecurity by advertising their existing services on campus, such as community showers which are open to all students in the Women’s Center and RIMAC. Exposing this major issue can help a demographic of college students that are underserved and underrepresented in terms of housing stability. The Basic Needs Organization on campus has the potentiality of solving this problem by expanding their services and creating a safe and favorable environment on campus.