Far too many college students begin their year with a deep anxiety about having shelter and enough money to purchase groceries or pay their heating bill.
More than 52% of students across 17 Oregon community colleges reported being “housing insecure” during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a national survey by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice.
To address these issues, Portland State University, Portland Community College, Mt. Hood Community College, and the nonprofits College Housing Northwest (CHNW) and New Avenues for Youth created a pilot program called Affordable Rents for College Students (ARCS).
This collaborative effort provides subsidized housing, a streamlined application process, and a highly supportive environment focused on student success.
The program currently has 18 students enrolled, 67% of whom are the first in their family to attend college; 39% are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Nearly half of the students surveyed said they would not have enrolled in classes without receiving housing through the ARCS program. CHNW has subsidized 50% of these students’ rents.
The program is invaluable to students like Amr Mostafa, a film student at Portland State University: “For the first time in my life,” he said, “I feel like I have a chance, and I’m at home. I feel safe. This program literally saved my life.”
The program recently received $280,000 in state support, thanks to the backing of State Senator Chris Gorsek. This assistance will help the program expand this fall and assist dozens more students access safe housing while they work toward a secure future.
“This is just a start to what I hope will be a much longer effort to create long-term and affordable housing for our students,” Gorsek said.
Mt. Hood Community College student Bakr Alkarawi believes the program is a vital investment for students. He plans to become a physician and to enroll in the medical program at Oregon Health & Science University.
“There is nothing more important than the safety, health, and education of our children, which is exactly what ARCS is giving to our students experiencing homelessness,” Alkarawi said. “Just because our families can’t support us doesn’t mean we are less capable or less worthy for the opportunity to create better lives for ourselves.”
Amanda Ward, who is attending both Portland Community College and Portland State University, believes the ARCS program is providing hope to countless college students.
“The most important thing is that I’m going to contribute to society in meaningful ways because I finally have access to safe and stable housing,” Ward stated. “The solution is very possible.”
ARCS is raising funds to help even more students secure stable housing at https://chnw.org/arcs/.