Published on 10/5/2021.
College affordability has been a hot topic of late, both nationally and here in California. The American College Promise Act, which would make community college tuition and fees free for low-income students, is now before Congress and has a strong chance of passing and becoming law. This is great news, but here at College of the Redwoods, we know that, beyond the expense of textbooks, tuition, and fees, students face prohibitively high costs for necessities like housing and, in some cases, even food.
Our own data supports the national data that shows the number of homeless students and students experiencing housing insecurity increasing. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. Along with housing insecurity and homelessness, our students also experience unstable access to food, transportation, school supplies, mental health services, and other items essential to academic success.
Although CR is an educational institution and not a social services provider, several months ago, CR’s Board of Trustees, the Foundation Board, and the administration made a commitment to create programs that let our housing insecure students know that they are not alone, and to connect them with programs and providers in the community that can keep them housed, fed, and better prepared to concentrate on the hard work of being a student.
Through the efforts of Marty Coelho, Executive Director of Advancement, we created the Redwoods Room & Board Scholarship program that enables students to live in our residence halls and eat in our cafeteria at no cost to them, as long as they make satisfactory academic progress and meet with counseling staff on a regular basis.
Additionally, through of the efforts of Dr. Kintay Johnson, CR was included in a three year state funded pilot program that helped us expand the Redwoods Room & Board Scholarship and establish the G.R.O.V.E—an innovative program that offers many services, including short-term hotel vouchers, counseling, academic support, food security, transportation vouchers, and local agency referrals. We also created a food pantry on campus, which offers snacks and staples to students while on campus, and connects them to the state CalFresh food assistance program. The food pantry quickly expanded to include clothing and other household supplies.
Still, students come to us with difficulties that make finding permanent or temporary housing challenging. Through the G.R.O.V.E we have been able to partner with The Arcata House. They offer a more hands-on approach and personal case-management, along with assistance in both permanent housing and emergency shelter for our students who need a greater level of support. For a portion of the population we serve, The Arcata House, and other social services organizations, are more appropriate organizations and are better equipped to help.
The hotel vouchers were always intended to be a short-term fix for students in crisis, not a long-term housing solution, and our objective has always been to gradually transition students out of the G.R.O.V.E. program and into long-term, stable housing situations. It is our hope that this support, along with their CR education, will allow them to become self-sufficient, productive members of our community.
I am aware that some students, local community members, and college staff have questioned CR’s ability to continue serving our homeless students. In spite of the incomplete information fueling the concern, our support to the G.R.O.V.E program has not wavered and we are committed to assisting our G.R.O.V.E students through the end of the academic year.
However, we are now in the third year of the state pilot program and it is unclear whether the state will continue funding the G.R.O.V.E program moving forward. If you would like to help CR maintain the current level of student support, please consider donating to our Redwoods Room & Board scholarship program today. Our commitment to students, whether they are housed or not, remains steadfast and your donation will go a long way towards making sure that housing insecure students have the support they need to reach their educational goals.
Donate here: https://www.redwoods.edu/Foundation-Home/Room-and-Board