California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) has been awarded a $100,000 grant by the California State University (CSU) Chancellor’s Office for a project that will provide a better understanding of college students who experience housing instability and food insecurity across all 23 CSU campuses. Titled “Best Practices Serving Displaced and Food Insecure Students in the CSU,” the one-year project will study if and how CSU campuses identify and serve students experiencing food and housing instability. Dr. Rashida Crutchfield, an assistant professor in CSULB’s School of Social Work, will oversee the project.
“CSULB is committed to providing services and resources that support the success of all students. Those living with food or housing insecurity face additional challenges to reaching their educational goals, so it is imperative that we do all we can for this group,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley. “Dr. Crutchfield’s work will help identify the population and more importantly, offer information and recommendations critical to properly serving them. We are fortunate to have someone with her credentials at The Beach.”
The outcome of the project will be a report summarizing for all 23 CSU campuses current services offered to homeless and food-insecure students and data-driven recommendations for best practices for CSU campuses.
“There are staff on campuses who serve these students because they know this student population exists, and faculty and other students want to help, but there is a need for systems to be put in place at universities across the nation to find them,” said Crutchfield.
Crutchfield specializes in youth homelessness – prior to joining the CSULB faculty, she served on the staff of Covenant House California, a Los Angeles shelter for homeless 18-to-24-year-olds, which gave her insight into practice, building rapport and intervention in this unique population’s needs and perspectives.
“Students who experience homelessness are invisible,” Crutchfield pointed out. “They are not required to identify themselves, and because of the stigma associated with homelessness, they purposefully hide their circumstances from those who might be able to help them.”
More than 47,000 students identified themselves nationally as homeless on their financial aid applications in 2010, according to Crutchfield, but she said that the number is undoubtedly low because many students are unaware of the status designation or are unwilling to designate themselves as homeless.
The number of students who experience food insecurity is largely undocumented and unknown. Crutchfield noted that persistent hunger often accompanies homelessness but can exist independently. Either way, though, persistent hunger is a negative factor in learning.