by: Oriana Gonzalez
photo by Oriana Gonzalez
ASUCI’s Housing Security Commission hosted Peter’s Place to inform students of the housing resources available on campus on Nov. 20.
The Housing Security Commission invited three guest speakers who covered three different areas of housing insecurity: housing insecurity in college, available housing resources and future resources coming to UCI.
“By having this event,” said Housing Security Commissioner Adriana Mejia, “hopefully, [students] take away the resources they learned, not only in the housing aspect, but also with health and wellness and finances … and apply the information to however they need it.”
Campus Village Resident Life Coordinator Kathryn Hsieh was the first speaker of the event. Her presentation addressed housing insecurity in higher education. She explained that homelessness differed from housing insecurity because a person is homeless if they don’t have a secure place to live, and instead stay in a shelter, a car or outside.
“Housing insecurity includes a broader set of challenges such as the inability to pay rent or utilities or the needs to move frequently,” said Hsieh during her presentation to contrast the terms.
Campus Social Worker Peter Thatch was the second speaker, he addressed housing resources that are already available on campus. He recommended that students expand their search when looking for housing by going on different websites — such as Facebook, Reddit, the California Housing Board and Airbnb — to broaden their housing options. He also reminded students to submit their FAFSA application before the deadline and explained that financial aid has opportunities for budget adjustments.
“If somebody has a car broken down and needs to pay for that, they can go seek financial aid and actually have a budget adjustment,” said Director of the FRESH Basic Needs Hub Andrea Gutierrez, the last speaker of the night.
Gutierrez announced that new Rapid Re-housing funds from the state had just arrived on campus that same day. UCI received $300,000 from the state and $150,000 from UCOP to be used for upcoming housing efforts, such as Basic Needs Emergency Grants (which are available now), and the Bridge Housing Program, which will allow students to receive housing support during breaks and holidays from one day to six months.
Gutierrez clarified that upcoming programs like the Bridge Housing Program will become available later this year after they hire a Rapid Re-housing Case Manager, who will be in charge of all rapid re-housing services. The Rapid Re-housing Case Manager is expected to be hired by March 2020 at the latest.
“The idea of rapid housing is that we’re able to support students at the moment they’re experiencing a challenge and help them get to a permanent housing situation. So, that might mean, not only helping navigate the housing market and moving costs, but also perhaps [subsidizing] housing for the first month or two or three if they need it, until eventually the student or the person can become self-sufficient and pay for their own rent,” Gutierrez said.
The Housing Security Commission was established in 2017 with the goal of alleviating the burden of housing on students. They opened the ASUCI Housing Insecurity Testimonial Survey earlier this quarter, from which they have gathered 25 stories of people going through housing insecurity.
“A lot of the stories are very heartbreaking,” Commissioner Mejia said. “We have started posting the testimonials on Facebook … and hopefully one day, we can use that information to talk to the administration or to talk to other people who have influences with legal housing situations … and show them that housing insecurities are an actual problem.”Mejia’s fall quarter office hours are on Tuesdays from 11 a.m to 12 p.m. You can reach her at email@example.com.