Student surveys in the California state school system show that 12 percent of students consider themselves to be homeless. With about 475,000 students on 23 campuses. That's 57,000 homeless students. While some of these students live on the street or in homeless shelters, in this case, "homeless" also defines students who couch surf temporarily or live in their car.
"Jill" is one of those students.
"We didn't have enough money to find rent anywhere else. It was all very sudden," Jill said. "We were really, really lucky. We each had a car, which is so not representative...you have a lot of people living 2 in a car, 3 in a car."
Jill says she doesn't mind sharing her story, but she wanted to keep her identity anonymous because her family never knew.
"My family's great," Jill said. "[But] they have a lot of pride about 'Our kids are doing this. Our kids are doing that.' They worked really hard to give the best to their kids."
Paying for tuition, housing, books and balancing jobs and grade also proved to be difficult. Jill said she couldn't get enough hours at her job to afford it all, so she had to make difficult decisions.
"I almost wasn't able to engage in it as my life. It was just like you're playing a video game," Jill said. "If you could get all these things together without dying, you can get to the next level."
Jill said she survived off fast food, snack bars, and food stamps. She often showered at the campus gym or friends' houses. She describes the six weeks living out of her truck the hardest of her life.
"It's really get tough to get your (expletive deleted) together and keep your mind right," said Jill. "When you're having a bad day, trying to take your classes, can't find a job, and you have to go home and live in a car."
Jill said sometimes her experience not having a secure place to live still feels like a dream.
"I joke about it being an internship. It did shape so much of my experience and my perspective," said Jill.
Jill adds that she knows some college students have it much worse.
"I'm definitely lucky...very privileged background," said Jill. "I've gone on to do things that I'm very proud of and I feel that this doesn't define me."
Cal state schools are working to provide funding for students with food and housing. At Sacramento State, the new Student Emergency Grant Funds helped 15 students in the Spring 2016 semester finish college. Through donations, the school was able to raise $20,000.
If you're a Sacramento State student and struggling to find stable housing or food, you can contact the Student Affairs Case Manager, Danielle Munoz at email@example.com.
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