Within college environments, homeless students are invisible. The majority of homeless youth go undetected and unsupported in college environments. This study used validation and strengths-based perspective theoretical lenses to understand the experiences of twenty homeless, traditional age community college students. Their stories were examined to understand the exchange between students and varied faculty, staff, and support service departments. Interview data were analyzed to draw out subject matter from each interview in order to develop codes and themes within the experiences of participants. Demographic questionnaires supplemented interview data.
Students described themselves as "a different type of homeless person," different from both their homeless and college going peers, resulting in a feeling of isolation that shaped their college experience. Homeless students described numerous and competing demands on their time, limited social capital, and often frustrating administrative and pedagogical practices that contributed obstacles and frustration as they sought to avoid "the cliff' of chronic homelessness and instability. They also described a "safety harness" (e.g., advising, helpful adults) that they constructed and accessed to help succeed and move up the collegiate mountain. They pointed to work, financial aid, academic advising, helpful adults, and other college resources, as well as their own resilience, as helping them move up the collegiate mountain.
Findings show the complex the experience of homeless students. Misinformation and misdirection in college drag youth down, yet financial aid, academic advising, faculty, and other critical resources can pull homeless students toward new vistas. As individuals, the students show great resilience; however, colleges and housing agencies can and should play a critical role in helping them move forward to more stable ground, using policy and effective practice to connect and support students.
Colleges must identify homeless students on campus and provide targeted support services that match their strengths and needs. Training in working with homeless youth for financial aid and advising staff, as well as faculty, will ensure that homeless youth are better served. Finally, additional exploration of the experiences and outcomes of homeless youth in higher education is vital to developing policies and practices to serve them.
|School:||California State University, Long Beach|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Community college education, Higher Education Administration, Public policy, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Higher education, Homeless, Youth|
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