Addressing homelessness in Massachusetts

By Matthew Dembicki

New state efforts tackle homelessness among community college students. 

As part of a comprehensive statewide plan to address youth homelessness in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker has announced a pilot program to house a small group of homeless community college students at nearby four-year colleges and universities.  Up to 20 homeless students at four community colleges will receive dormitory housing through partnerships with nearby four-year institutions.

“We look forward to working with our community colleges and state universities to implement this program to give students a stable place to live so they can thrive academically and have access to the necessary supports in their own communities that will help them continue their path to self-sufficiency,” Baker said in announcing the program Thursday at Framingham State University.

In Massachusetts, it is estimated that there are at least 1,800 young adults every year who experience homelessness, according to the state’s Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness. Among unaccompanied homeless youth, students who are enrolled in the state’s colleges and universities represent a population of unique interest and growing concern, according to the state.

One step up

The pilot launched among the following four partnerships earlier this month:

Quinsigamond Community College President Luis Pedraja said offering housing to these students will help them overcome a major hurdle to staying in college and succeeding.

“Education is the key to self-sufficiency, and having a stable place to live and adequate nourishment will allow students to focus on their education and help change their lives,” he said.

Each of the four-year institutions will offer five beds. To participate, students must be:

  • Enrolled full-time in a public college or university participating in the pilot
  • Degree-seeking and in good academic standing as defined by home institution
  • Age 25 or younger
  • Referred by campus staff or community service provider, or self-applied

The state will reimburse campuses for the cost of the dorm beds for 18 months, including summer and semester breaks. Campuses will cover the cost of providing meals and snacks for students, with support from local service providers where available.

Massachusetts last year developed a plan to address homeless youths with recommendations that included assisting them in transitions from high school to college, and improving their education, employment and credentialing opportunities.

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Matthew Dembicki

edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.