The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College assists students with emergency housing


When Dean of Intervention Andre Coleman got word March 12 that five days later, all classes in the Los Rios Community College District would transition to remote instruction due to COVID-19, he realized that students were going to need help with basic needs.

In response to this new need, the district rolled out an emergency housing program in late July to provide hotel vouchers to students who were in emergency situations. 

“We’re not going to be able to provide a hotel for everyone,” Coleman said. “What it’s done is it has opened the door for us to be able to say, ‘OK, let’s talk about how do we get you to Sacramento housing resources?’”

Since March, Coleman and student personnel assistant Irina Marsant have been working together to provide housing vouchers for students who qualify.

“It’s just a case-by-case scenario,” Marsant said. “To get into the program the eligibility is very simple: You need to be enrolled [at] Sacramento City College, at least for six units, and this program can only be used [by each student] once for the whole Los Rios district.”

The first requirement for eligibility is simple, according to Marsant. She said the second, which requires that a student is in an emergency situation, can be harder for students to meet.

Coleman said that with such a new program, there are difficulties gathering enough funding to meet the needs of students. He said the vouchers are a temporary, yet necessary, fix.

“We have resources to meet the emergency needs of the students. Where someone’s in a safety issue, those are great uses of those funds,” Coleman said. “But what it’s done is it’s brought awareness of this issue of housing insecurity and homelessness and how do we start to address it?”

Coleman and Marsant realize that the City College program offers only temporary assistance. 

“It’s not going to help [people] get out of their homelessness if they stay for two, three days in a hotel,” Marsant said. “So we are developing a case management system that we can assist students with the next steps, so connect them to the right resources and encourage them.”

Marsant explained that while not all City College students are eligible for the program, she encourages and helps students who are not qualified get connected to other programs on and off campus. According to Marsant, finding every student lodging isn’t possible because of funding.

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Coleman said that sometimes the difference between a student with housing and a student in need of housing can be having the $600–$800 deposit for an apartment. 

“Folks, when they’re in those situations, they just need help, and they don’t always know where to start,” Coleman said. “And if we can be that place [where a student might say] ‘I know if I go here, they’re going to help me facilitate that process.’” 

Coleman added that there is value in learning how to maneuver through government agencies.

“This is an important life skill of learning how to navigate bureaucracies, learning how to utilize government resources and programs that are available,” Coleman said. “But we also understand that that could be a high challenge, and when that’s a high challenge, you need a high level of support.” 

Victoria Austin, City College regional director of philanthropy, who coordinates fundraising for City College, noted that the hotel voucher program is currently supported by donations to Los Rio’s College Foundation COVID-19 Relief fund. She added that raising money to support the program can be challenging.

“The hotel piece, unfortunately, it’s really a very small piece of the budget, which is why the funds are really limited for that,” Austin said. “So we can only support just a small handful of students with what we have now. It could be that [until] we’ll get more money. We’re going to continue fundraising for these purposes.”

Austin said that when the Los Rios district implemented campus closures in March, officials quickly switched their focus to COVID-19 relief efforts.

“As soon as COVID hit and we realized what was going to happen to our students,
we realized that there was going to be a lot of financial stress, particularly because of job loss,” Austin said.

Coleman added that whether students need housing, food or blankets, he and Marsant will work with students to find them what they need.

“Our students need help. And we’re going to help,” Coleman said. “And we’re going to do everything we can to help. Housing may be the reason they hit the radar or why they walk through our door or virtual door now, doesn’t matter. We’re going to help.”

For more information about the hotel voucher program, contact Irina Marsant at [email protected].

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