Yakima Valley College provides support to students experiencing housing insecurity through pilot grant program with SBCTC

Yakima, Wash. —Kristine is one of nearly 50 Yakima Valley College students experiencing housing insecurity whose educational aspirations have been supported through a pilot program at six Washington colleges.

“Before I entered the program and began receiving housing and basic needs assistance, I had no vision or hope for the future,” stated Kristine, a 21-year old student. “A safe place to sleep and removal from the environments that led to my unhealthy mental and physical state have given me the opportunity to focus on my education, which never seemed like a possibility for me in my previous situation.”

The Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness (SSEH) Pilot Program, launched during the 2019-2020 academic year, is building support systems for students like Kristine who are at-risk of having their college studies derailed by homelessness.

The pilot program supports students who are homeless or were in foster care. Colleges can use the funds to help students with short-term housing or housing assistance; laundry facilities, storage and showers; food cards; technology; and case-management services. In total YVC was awarded $110,000 for this two-year grant.

“National studies indicate a substantial level of homelessness amongst college students,” stated YVC Faculty Counselor Esther Huizar. “At YVC, students reported high levels of unmet basic needs in the fall of 2019. 48% of students indicated that they experienced food insecurity, with 59% facing housing insecurity and 18% experiencing homelessness.”

Yakima Valley College, along with other SSEH Pilot institutions, have supported students during this year’s unprecedented public health and economic crises. During the first year of the grant YVC has served 44 students, representing nearly half the students served state-wide by the pilot program.

SSEH Pilot is building support systems for students facing homelessness on six public campuses: ​Eastern Washington University, Edmonds College, South Puget Sound Community College, Walla Walla Community College, Western Washington University, and Yakima Valley College.

Pilot institutions served ​109 students​ in the five months of the start-up year (February 2020 – June 2020).

All students served were experiencing or at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness, and 83% reported low or marginal food security. Despite these barriers, all SSEH students completed the term and persisted to their next term.

In January, YVC Faculty Counselor Esther Huizar provided written testimony in support of House Bill 1166. If the bill passes, access to grant funding for the SSEH program would be expanded to include six additional institutions.

“At Yakima Valley College, I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact the SSEH grant has had on students,” Huizar noted in her testimony. “An expansion of the SSEH grant would help additional Washington State post-secondary institutions address growing concerns about food and housing insecurity. By responding to these concerns, we can make progress in increasing retention and completion rates.”

She continued, “As a faculty counselor, I serve students who lack a fixed, regular or stable place to live. They experience significant, difficult and interrelated challenges that negatively impact their academic success.

Imagine being challenged to excel academically as a college student while also not being sure whether you will have a safe place to sleep or where your next meal will come from. It is our responsibility as educators and the larger community to help support those students who cannot afford groceries or lack a safe and stable place to live. Everyone in our state will benefit from enabling these students to achieve their dreams.”

In the second program year, YVC and other pilot campuses are focusing on adaptive solutions to support students who are experiencing homelessness, sharing effective practices and improving Washington’s understanding of addressing postsecondary basic needs.

As of January 2021, YVC was serving 24 students through the program with approximately $50,000 in funding available to provide additional support during the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year.

For more information contact Esther Huizar at ehuizar@yvcc.edu.

Press Release Contacts:
Dustin Wunderlich / 509.574.6870 / dwunderlich@yvcc.edu
Stefanie Menard / 509.574.4646 / smenard@yvcc.edu