In support of the California State University system’s effort to increase graduation rates of students, CSU, Chico Basic Needs has partnered with a pair of local housing agencies to address the growing number of students experiencing homelessness—announcing the collaboration during national Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

CSU, Chico was one of seven CSU campuses to receive a California State University College-Focused Rapid Re-Housing Partnership Grant this year. The majority of the $870,000 grant is guided as direct student aid in the form of rental assistance, financial support that the University is combining with on-location case management through Chico Housing Action Team (CHAT) and True North Housing Alliance. The goal is to develop a working rapid re-housing program to address the rising challenge of student homelessness in our community.

Basic Needs administrator Joe Picard said the challenges of finding and maintaining stable, affordable housing—and the resulting financial stress—continue to create significant barriers to graduation. He believes working together with local housing agencies will help make significant inroads to bridge the current gaps and, as a result, improve overall student academic success.

“Through these partnerships, we have developed a successful system to identify and quickly provide services to students experiencing homelessness, so they can continue toward academic success and a rewarding life,” Picard said.

The partnership between the three local agencies is a natural fit. Through the generous support of donors, Chico State Basic Needs introduced its first emergency housing services in 2016. Since that time, the University has sheltered more than 125 students experiencing homelessness primarily through University Housing, CHAT, True North and housing providers.

Since being established in 2013, CHAT’s mission is to ensure that everyone in the Chico community—including CSU, Chico students—has access to affordable housing. And True North Housing Alliance is a full-spectrum Continuum of Care provider, managing Chico’s Torres Community Shelter. In 2019, True North collectively served over 1,100 people, and approximately 200 of those individuals secured permanent housing.

Research estimates that more than 500 CSU, Chico students will experience homelessness during an academic year—a number that additional campus-based research estimates is increasing, as 14 percent of CSU, Chico students reported experiencing some form of homelessness during the 2018–19 academic year. The initial goal of the rapid re-housing program is to provide a working system of transitional and permanent supportive housing for homeless students, customized to each student’s needs and ability to pay.

The new partnership will assist participants with finding housing, negotiation with property owners, move-in costs, security deposits, rental payments, lease and co-signing advising, utilities, internet and mobile service assistance. Additionally, these housing services are combined with academic advising, financial literacy, career counseling and other student services to provide more complete assistance toward student academic success and graduation.

Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, Chico State Basic Needs—in collaboration with University Housing, CHAT, True North and local housing providers—has successfully placed and provided case-managed support for 25 students experiencing homelessness who have maintained their studies.

This accomplishment is particularly significant, as identifying students who experience homelessness is often challenging—many individuals experiencing homelessness internalize the stigma and historically under-report their condition. The challenges of student homelessness are only compounded by the pandemic, economic displacement and the loss of student employment opportunities on campus and in the community—giving the grant more weight and the partnerships added significance.

As part of national Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, November 15-22, CSU, Chico Basic Needs is highlighting its community partners and services with a week full of informative meetings, virtual meetups and ways to get involved with the efforts to help the CSU, Chico student community. More information is at the Basic Needs website or on social media at @HungryWildcats.