Meet Alecia D.! She is a second year student at Ferris State University, and is majoring in Human Resource Management with an additional two minors in International Business and Economics.
Typically students graduating from high school will stay with their families over the summer and transition from there into college with the support of their family. Around 23,000 youth age out of the foster care system each year. Of these youth, around 11-36% become homeless, while another 25-50% experience unstable housing (1). Finding stable living arrangements becomes a regular hassle for youth, such as myself. Unfortunately, this hassle travels with us into college.
As a student, dealing with various living arrangements is tough enough. Finding apartments, learning about leases, being responsible for rent, understanding down payments, or splitting utilities between roommates are just a few factors that contribute to the college housing experience.
While in school, I’ve noticed that some students can go home those couple of weeks in-between semesters and during holiday breaks. Going back home and relaxing before the new semester is a less stressful transition for some than others. Other students, like myself, do not have this luxury. My first two years I have experienced the dorm life. It is a great experience – until it is time to move out. Where am I to go those 10 to 15 days in between semesters? I cannot go home. Well, I could, but I would much rather not deal with the stress of that. I have everything I own with me; I cannot simply carry it on my back while couch surfing between cities.
There are solutions to finding housing that will make your only outlet a smoother transition. In this blog, I will present options through my personal experience.
One option I have used is having a friend that will let you move in for a couple weeks until you have the option to move back into the dorms. This option can also help during holiday breaks. The friend I have went to numerous times in my situation was my mentor, who has helped me tremendously. Instead of having to purchase storage to have a place for my things, (such as lamps, rugs, tubs of miscellaneous items, microwave, etc) I could use her garage. She had also let me stay at her house for the ten days in between my spring semester and summer semester while working. Her willing family helped me move everything out of dorm and into my dorm each time I had to do this. Having a support system that is strong enough to help you with problems, such as this, are helpful in the long run.
After the ten days were up, I moved into summer housing dorms. Some institutions have discounted housing benefits for students staying on campus over the summer. For example, Ferris State University lifted the cost of housing if at least 6 credits were taken. This not only allowed me to take classes continuously but it allowed me to stay on campus and work. By contacting housing and seeking options that gravitate towards students who are staying on campus, there may be other ways that will make your summer housing less stressful and more convenient.
If housing for the summer cost too much or forces you to take out loans that you would not want, there are other options as well. The last few weeks before the fall semester, the dorms closed again. I moved into a friend’s apartment and helped pay for rent and watch their house while they were away. Subleasing, helping pay rent for a (trusted) friend, or "house sitting" for a friend is an extremely useful way to find housing. This allowed more freedom. Dorms have rules that won't apply to apartment living (jam out to the music as loud as you want!), or conveniences like the kitchen being downstairs and more personable, instead of two floors away with the possibility of hundreds of other students using it. Once the dorms opened back up for the fall, my mentor and her family helped me move my things (again, haha) into my fall dorm.
Being that I might have to be in this situation again, I have learned that saving up - can save you! One way that I save up money is being apart of Michigan Youth Opportunity Initiative (MYOI). With this, I have received stipends in return for coming to meetings/events, and being a dedicated youth member. This is my emergency fund if I ever need it. Another resource, if it is available to you, is Youth In Transition (YIT) funds that are also available. There are various ways to save money, and having an emergency amount set aside can be vital when doing things on your own are the only way to go.
While I chose my own route, there are other possibilities when looking for housing. Other options that I did not utilize could be useful to others. Another resource I would like to bring up is The Student Advocacy Center of Michigan. There are options open to youth in need that are homeless or are in situations where emergency housing is needed. Asking your college advisor, caseworker, mentor, or trusted adult, for help can get you far. Students that are in situations that force themselves to make certain decisions often bring far more maturity. The key to taking care of business is being a leader in your own life. Asking for help may hurt your pride but overall will be worth it! I had a problem, personally, asking for help. Building up a support system with the individuals involved within the resources available to foster youth and college students will make certain situations less stressful than they have to be.
If I did not have Fostering Success Michigan, Ferris Youth Initiative, Fostering Futures, and many other outlets responsible for helping me, my college experience would not be the great experience it has been.
One other factor I would like to hit is the emotional part of this process. While I am grateful for the support system I have, I can sometimes let my situation affect me in ways that might possibly affect you too. While I was moving out, I noticed families and mothers helping each other. While staying with my mentor I felt a nuisance at times. Having to move everything I own with me four or five times in one year felt bothersome to the people that helped me move. As I grow and meet more youth in foster care or youth that has experienced foster care, I realize that we are all a family. My support system is my family, and I love them. My family back at home - is still my family and I will always love them! I have done what I can in my circumstances, and I am proud of myself for it. For the youth who have gone through way worse than I ever have, I commend you for being strong. Thank you to each and every outlet I have exhausted!
1 "Senators Announce Caucus on Foster Youth Panel Discussion on Homelessness." United States Senator for Iowa Chuck Grassley . Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Panel Discussion on Homelessness Among Foster Youth, 12 May 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. <http://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/senators-announce-caucus-foster-youth-panel-discussion-homelessness>.
Fostering Success Michigan is a program of Educate Tomorrow that aims to increase access and success in higher education and post-college careers for youth with experience in foster care. Learn how you can contribute to building a holistic network that insulates (i.e., strengthens protective factors and reduces risks) the education to career "pipeline."Make a Donation