Edmonds Community College was recently awarded two grants totaling more than $230,000 by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) to support students experiencing homelessness and those in need of emergency assistance.
“Too often we look at education success beginning and ending with academics, but it’s so much more,” said Edmonds CC President Dr. Amit B. Singh. “Many factors are involved, and these need to be addressed as part of a more holistic approach.
“We’ve made strides toward helping our students in need of assistance and the generous funding from these grants will significantly increase the impact we can make toward helping some of our most vulnerable students be successful.”
SBCTC awarded $136,000 in funding for the 2019-21 Supporting College Students Experiencing Homelessness (SSEH) grant and $96,000 for the 2019-21 Student Emergency Assistance Grant (SEAG).
Edmonds CC is one of four Washington community colleges to receive the SSEH grant. Other recipients include South Puget Sound Community College, Walla Walla Community College, and Yakima Valley College. As part of the grant, Edmonds CC will work in partnership with the Jean Kim Foundation on the SSEH grant and a pilot program to support students facing homelessness and housing insecurity.
“The Jean Kim Foundation is honored and privileged to partner with Edmonds CC,” said Jason Dunbar, the foundation’s Student Services Coordinator. “As a foundation, we exist to inspire and support homeless and under-resourced people to break the chains of poverty through education. We are a support network that meets people where they’re at using a relational model of service by approaching each student’s situation with sensitivity and wholehearted support.”
According to the foundation, about 50 Edmonds CC students reach out annually for housing or housing referral help. Since its establishment in 2015, the foundation has provided wrap-around direct and referral support primarily to Edmonds CC students experiencing homelessness, including the development and operation of Shepherd’s Village, an encampment of six tiny homes adjacent to campus that are reserved for homeless Edmonds CC students. As part of the grant, the college and the foundation will be exploring additional sites to build more tiny houses for homeless students.
Beginning this winter, Dunbar will serve as the Jean Kim Foundation’s on-campus Housing Support Navigator, and two student workers will be trained to help with resource navigation. Dunbar will be working to increase the college’s ability to leverage resources for students, strengthen partnerships across campus and community resources, as well as supporting students on issues such as housing navigation, mental health referrals, health insurance navigation, legal services, and tangible resources like food, clothes, blankets and toiletries.
The SSEH grant will also allow the college to provide other accommodations for students needing assistance with access to hot showers, a mail stop, laundry, and access to the college gym during breaks for a warm place to study.
With funding from the SEAG, Edmonds CC will establish the We’ve Got Your Back: Student Assistance Program. The goal is to create low-barrier, equitable access to emergency assistance by establishing one primary office to work with students and to streamline the application process to make it quick and simple. The college also plans to launch a robust outreach campaign to address the stigma around asking for help and inform students and employees about the program.
Edmonds CC has made significant strides toward addressing student assistance needs. Its efforts include the 2018 opening of the college food pantry, which offers non-perishable food and personal hygiene items, in partnership with the Lynnwood Food Bank. The pantry is open two days a week and serves about 150 students per week. The college is also seeing an increase in visits with approximately 61 visits in spring 2018 to 1,123 visits in spring 2019.
“The Food Pantry has college-wide support from the college’s Equity and Inclusion Office, Edmonds CC Foundation, Campus Green Fund, Student Services, and there’s an amazing amount of support from the Lynnwood Food Bank, the Garneau-Nicon Foundation and Hubbard Family Foundation,” said Jorge de la Torre, dean of Student Engagement. “There have also been campus food drives and donations that have literally brought in tons of food. It’s really rewarding to work at a place that cares about its vulnerable students.”
Other efforts include the college’s Project Home Association which raises funds for the student-based Project Home program to provide housing and scholarships for rental/hotel assistance to homeless and near-homeless Edmonds CC students. Project Home provides housing in Edmonds CC residence halls, rent assistance, and/or hotel vouchers up to $1,600. It has provided housing assistance scholarships to 69 students since 2011.
The Edmonds CC Foundation currently provides emergency funding to about 40 students each year. Funding is available for currently enrolled students who are experiencing an unforeseen financial situation that has occurred in the last 60 days that is beyond their control and could prevent them from continuing their education. It covers basic life necessities that are current or past due, such as food, shelter, utility bills, and/or car repairs.