Mass. Program Offers Free Dorms for Homeless College Students
The program is currently housing 20 homeless college students and plans to expand in the future as additional funding comes in.
Massachusetts is committed to helping its homeless college students by providing them with a free place to live.
The $120,000 program was announced on Thursday by Governor Charlie Baker. It is part of a $3 million fund for organizations helping homeless youth across the state.
The program covers state universities in Bridgewater, Framingham, Worcester and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and is expected to expand as more funding comes in the next budget.
This past week, 20 students who were previously homeless, have moved into residence halls. Gabriel, a 20-year-old student at MassBay Community College in Framingham, was one of them.
Gabriel told the Boston Globe that on top of his schoolwork, he was constantly worried about his place in a homeless shelter, was late to class from taking the public bus and saw his grades slipping.
“It was hard to focus,” he said. “Even the small things would add up. It was getting to be too much.”
According to state officials, there is an estimated 500 to 1,000 unaccompanied homeless youth.
Students enrolled in the program are guaranteed a yearlong place to live if they are under the age of 25, a full-time student and keep good grades.
Massachusetts may have an easier time getting a program like this off the ground because the state has a shrinking college-age population, according to Sara Goldrick-Rab, founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, a center that studies homelessness and hunger issues. She says declining enrollment at some campuses will help to free up beds.
As an alternative, some colleges are considering keeping their parking lots open at night with security guards for students who live out of their cars, she says.
Goldrick-Rab points out that many homeless students may experience mental health issues and family responsibilities, that could have forced them out of a stable environment. She feels the state needs to address these issues as well.
UMass Lowell student Jaime Waldron, 20, who lost both of her parents by the age of 15, is considered an independent orphan. She has taken out $16,000 in student loans to pay for on-campus housing.
Now, part of the program, Waldron says, “Living here literally feels like a home.”
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