South Launches Housing Assistance Program
Posted on March 29, 2019
When college students are hungry and don’t have a place to live, it’s hard for them to focus on their studies. At the University of South Alabama, help is on the way with a program beginning in the fall semester.
The new USA Housing and Food Assistance Program will coordinate and enhance existing initiatives such as JagPantry and Jags4Jags with temporary housing assistance and Aramark meal scholarships. The program is the brainchild of a USA student.
Broderick Morrissette, an information technology major, worked with Dr. Michael Mitchell, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, to draft the guidelines and proposal. “This program is essential to the peace of mind it can provide to students,” Morrissette said. “I have personally seen some of my peers be affected by homelessness. Dr. Mitchell passed on some literature from another institution, and I went to work on creating the program for South.”
Kim Ortiz, coordinator of student conduct and manager of USA’s Housing Assistance Program, said it’s important that students have the basic needs of food and shelter.
“We talk with students about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which also includes life’s basic needs of food and shelter,” Ortiz explained. “If the students’ basic needs are not met, it’s very challenging for them to study and complete their college degree. We are helping our students get the most out of their collegiate experience. By doing this, we can help students be focused on doing well in the classroom.”
Ortiz said faculty and staff are encouraging students in need to take advantage of the housing and food resources available to them. She works with the students weekly to help them reach a long-term solution.
“The students can contact me and we will discuss what their needs are,” she said. “The temporary housing program is 30 days. We find them a room, which many times will be with a roommate. They also receive a meal plan while they are in student housing. During that time, I meet with the student once a week to see what their long-term plans for housing will include. We connect them with campus and community resources to, hopefully, help them find permanent housing and food while they are a student at South Alabama. We want to meet students where they are.”
Students who need support can discreetly meet with Ortiz and complete a short application by answering several questions pertaining to food and housing insecurities.
“The students in need must have exhausted all financial aid options and be without shelter when they complete the application for assistance,” she said. Students do not have to pay the University back for the 30-day temporary housing.
“This is a great program and University Housing is supporting students who have a need for housing based on specific circumstances,” said Dr. James Bridgeforth, director of housing. “The students will complete a short-term housing contract, and temporary housing is provided based on availability.”
Ortiz said she is working to help build community partnerships that will be available to students who have not secured permanent housing after the 30 days. Students in need can contact Ortiz at (251) 461-1991 or email her at email@example.com.
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