The UW and the U-District are by no means exempt from Seattle’s homelessness crisis. From 2017 to 2018, the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community increased from 26 to 160. Within this increase exists a population of students experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness that goes underreported — the UW needs to be more aggressive in making this population zero.
Currently, there is no exact estimate of how many UW students are experiencing homelessness, according to UW public information officer Kim Eckert in February 2019. But surveys conducted over the past year should show more accurate university-specific data once the numbers are released. A 2018 study by Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab reported that 36% of students are food insecure nationwide, while another 36% reported being housing insecure. In the same survey, 9% of students identified as being homeless.
The UW has a responsibility to make housing a primary focus when questioning and surveying students in order to get more accurate results for what students are experiencing and what students need.
State legislators are working to create more protections for students experiencing homelessness, including pilot programs with housing accommodations and waivers for first-year housing. Some bills are also aiming to work toward helping families and students before they reach higher education. The newest state budget includes $175 million allocated toward creating more affordable housing in the next two years.
Urban@UW is making strides to accommodate youth experiencing homelessness in the U-District through the university-sponsored Doorway Project, one of the initiatives made possible by state funding. The UW is equipped to aid students with food insecurities at the Campus Food Pantry and provide short-term loans, but there are no direct provisions for helping students experiencing homelessness with long-term housing solutions.
The three main causes of student homelessness have been identified as lack of sufficient income, lack of affordable housing, and parental or family conflict. The UW can’t solve the issue of income or parental and family conflict, but they can take steps toward solutions by considering a sliding scale system for housing costs dependent on what students can afford.
In terms of other resources for students experiencing homelessness, there needs to be significantly more community outreach to let students know what is available to them through the university. Many students can’t search for these resources because they don’t know they exist.
There is only one caseworker at UW Health and Wellness who works with students experiencing homelessness, and if the UW student population were to align with the national 9%, this social worker should have close to 400 cases. In addition to publicizing what is available to students, there needs to be more access to these resources.
For more information on what student homelessness looks like, refer to the Student Homelessness Guide.
Editorials are written, edited, and approved by Opinion Editor Rachel Morgan, Engagement Editor Hailey Robinson, Sports Editor Josh Kirshenbaum, and Co-Development Editor Shahbaz Ahmed Khan, and reflect the opinions of The Daily editorial staff.