Through Care and Camaraderie, a University Tries to Keep Homeless Students on Track

T he forces that compel colleges to create stand-alone programs and special services for homeless…

Georgia (Aug 25, 2015)T


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he forces that compel colleges to create stand-alone programs and special services for homeless students vary. Florida State created Unconquered Scholars after a professor of social work asked what the college was doing for homeless and foster youth.

Other colleges have been spurred to action by a single student. In 2011, Marci Stidum, a case manager in the counseling center at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia, got a call from the grounds crew. Groundskeepers had been finding one student’s belongings stashed away in the dorms, and they didn’t know what to do with the student.

Ms. Stidum’s first reaction was one of confusion. "I was like, Homelessness, huh? It didn’t register," she recalls. "She was my ground zero."

The student didn’t want to go to a shelter, so Ms. Stidum made temporary arrangements for her to sleep on a campus bench, telling campus police not to arrest her. Recognizing "this was not a one-time scenario," she called colleagues at other universities to see how they were helping homeless students. When she asked about particular services, "they kept saying, ‘we need that’ on their own campuses, she recalls.

Ms. Stidum decided her college "needed something official," so she created a name — Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment Center, also abbreviated as CARE — and a website, and sought administrators’ blessing. They offered to help with fund raising but did not provide any institutional support.

A couple of years later, CARE has raised between $30,000 and $40,000 dollars from foundations and donations from staff and members of the community. During the last academic year, the program provided more than $14,000 in financial support to students through housing, meal plans, gas and grocery cards, and bus passes. It also arranged housing or prevented eviction for 11 students and distributed over 5,000 pounds of food through the university pantry, which it now runs.

The program has also created partnerships with a community organization that boards students’ pets and a consignment shop where students can choose their own clothes. "It’s empowering to have choice," Ms. Stidum says, "because with poverty, a lot of time people are dictating to you."


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit