A 2013 study concluded that 10 percent of our campus students are homeless, 32 percent went hungry when employed, and 30 percent didn’t even have enough money for food.
UW Tacoma associate professor Christie Stevens conducted this study by taking surveys of all the students in her classes and having them answer questions concerning food and housing insecurity.
“Some students don’t see themselves as homeless, but there’s a lot of couch surfing and sleeping in cars,” says Stevens.
One reason for the extremely high numbers, according to Stevens, is that FAFSA requires the financial information of the students’ parents. Although many students aren’t benefiting financially from their parents, the financial information for their guardians is taken into account on the form as though the parents will be helping with tuition costs. “Some families aren’t well off, and they won’t be providing financial support to their child to attend school, yet their income is still calculated [when filling out the FAFSA form].”
One way the campus has decided to aid students in need is through The Pantry, which feeds approximately 300 students a week. Located in the Dougan building, The Pantry is a service that provides healthy foods and hygiene items to students in need on campus. “The Pantry is set up by the FISH food bank as well as other donations,” said Stevens.
The Pantry has weekly drop-in hours on Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Thursdays from1 – 5 p.m. If students cannot make the drop-in hours, students can fill out an online form to receive donated goods.
“They just need to fill out the form and then just go pick it up whenever they can,” said Stevens.
There are also community youth services dedicated to housing youth ages 18 to 24 that provides students with meals, a bed and people to talk to. And, according to Stevens, the Metropolitan Development Council Tacoma Detox center also provides shelter for homeless youths. They have a detox center and another center for diagnosis for mental health. They also have housing for people to live in.
“On the fourth floor of the building, the city’s youth are permitted to stay from 90 days to 2 years, and then they will still have support to try and find a place and have the support from the center,” said Stevens.
Stevens plans to conduct another study in 2017 to inform our community of the changes that have occurred since 2013 with the addition of The Pantry and more community youth resources.