BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — In the past, CSUB was only able to offer seven days of emergency housing, which is often not enough time to get yourself back on your feet.
Starting this year, CSUB is now able to offer emergency housing for a limited number of students for a month.
“Students are able to stay 30 days. During that time, we provide a meal plan for them because we know students who are struggling to find reliable housing, likely would benefit from a meal plan. We also provide linens, everything they need to move in because we know that for some of our students when they come to us, they are just coming with the clothes in their backpack,” said Dr. Jason Watkins, CSUB’s Director of Basic Needs, which includes the Emergency Housing Program.
One of those students is Krystal Raynes, who found herself without a home at the onset of the pandemic.
“In June, I was literally homeless. I had nowhere to stay, and I was able to stay for free. I was able to get my feet back up because of the Emergency Housing Program and funds that the Chancellor’s office distributed to all 23 California State Universities and that is why I am here today.”
Raynes, a first-generation college student and now one of two student trustees for the CSU system said this to the vice-chancellor when advocating for more funding towards basic needs programs.
During the 30 days, students like Krystal, will have weekly case management appointments where faculty will help them apply for Cal Fresh and figure out their next move before the 30 days are over.
For many students, like herself, there is not one common reason why they find themselves facing homelessness.
In Raynes’ case, a toxic home environment and bad relationship left her scrambling for a stable home.
“I knew, I couldn’t really ask my friends, ‘Hey, can I crash on your couch?’, and I didn’t have contact with my family. I had no one, and I didn’t want to be a burden on anybody.”
So, she turned to faculty and the 30-day emergency housing program.
“For many students, they chose to become full-time residents on campus. So, we work with the student and with financial aid if there can be some adjustments made so they can become full time residents. Other students, we work with them to find community resources to get them set up on their own,” said Dr. Watkins.
Raynes was able to find other CSUB students who needed roommates and has since moved into her own apartment.
“I was able to move in and I was just sitting there in my dorm, with my stuff all around me. It took me a few hours to pack up my entire life. It felt so good to just finally breathe.”
But with no rental or credit history, and low-paying jobs, many students are struggling to find a home in the saturated market Bakersfield is becoming.
“We know housing is a long-term solution. We see these 30 days as a wonderful measure to get through that first period, but we are really working to connect them down the road,” said Dr. Watkins.
Affordable Housing in Bakersfield
However, the affordable housing situation in Bakersfield is also affecting students.
“Even in Bakersfield, we used to have affordable housing but that is changing for us. Rents are increasing and it is becoming harder and harder for students to find rents they can afford. So, we already see a tremendous need now and that is likely to continue and increase in the years to come,” said Dr. Watkins.
Yet, Raynes said that even that small 30-day window gave her time, something she needed.
“In those 30 days I was applying for food stamps, applying for mental health services, reaching out to people on CSUB housing groups, to see if anyone needed a roommate which I eventually got,” said Raynes.
Two months after she went through the program, and was in a much better place, is when she decided to use her experience and position as a student trustee to request recurring funds. They were granted.
“It was unreal because it was like ‘wow, did my story make that much of an impact?’”
The program has now been made permanent across all 23 CSU schools, which Raynes said made her feel proud, as others can now access the resources that helped her so much.
“You know I wouldn’t be here today. I would’ve probably dropped out of school, probably worked somewhere else, and tried to return. But you know how hard it is to return after you have dropped out. So, I really appreciate CSUB for doing this.”
Dr. Watkins said the idea of having to drop out is something that crosses the minds of many students going through this situation: “We know for students, in order to get the most of out their academics, to graduate on time, being safely and adequately housed is part of it. If we can help fill that gap, that is what we want to do.”
The funding not only helps keep the Emergency Housing Program going but also the other basic needs programs like the food pantry. Which, pre-pandemic, was being used by on average 500 students and faculty every week.
For now, the 30 days have helped several students transition to a more permanent solution and focus on their education instead of where they will sleep.
The program is open to a limited amount of full-time students and is available on a first come, first served basis.
The Cost of Student Housing
As school officials across the country seek more efficient ways of accomodating housing for their students, 23ABC is taking an in-depth look at the numbers relating to the topic.
The country's 175 largest universities can provide on-campus accommodations for only around 21.5 percent of their undergraduate students. Because of the high demand, but low supply, vacancy levels at these schools remain at a low five percent.
The average student rent cost sits at around $7,717 per year. That number has increased by more than 50-percent over the past 20 years.