A few weeks ago, special-education advocate Debra Isaacs Schaefer was tutoring a group of teenagers in foster care.
“We were working on college essays,” she said, when she was struck by a realization. “A number of them, when they age out of the system, may become homeless.”
While temperatures remain firmly planted in summer break territory, back-to-school time is around the corner for area colleges.
Schaefer decided to try to ease that transition for some of the area’s neediest students. Thirteen percent of community college students are homeless — and two-thirds are food insecure, according to a March study of 70 colleges led by Temple University professor Sara Goldrick-Rab. That rate was much higher for students who aged out of foster care — 29 percent are homeless.
A crowd-funding site seemed to be the fastest vehicle to make a difference, said Schaefer, who is on a committee to oversee the West Chester University food pantry. In addition to West Chester University, Cabrini University and Montgomery County Community College food pantries have signed on to receive funding from the online drive.
With a deadline of Aug. 16 and a $2,000 goal, a GoFundMe was born.
“This is actually very good timing,” said Tori Nuccio assistant director of financial aid at West Chester University. That school already provides a food pantry, with the support of the Chester County Food Bank, and housing for about 30 students without anywhere to go during breaks. But, with classes beginning Aug. 28, it’s short on school supplies
If successful, the fundraiser will provide each housing-insecure student the school has identified with a backpack full of school supplies and snacks “so they don’t have to worry about spending financial aid or work study wages on it,” said Nuccio.
Among the three schools, more than 250 students in uncertain housing situations have been identified, according to Schaefer.