For many college students, juggling multiple classes, participating in activities on campus and working around their school schedule to pay bills is challenging enough.
Formerly incarcerated students face all the same pressures, but often deal with the additional stress of finding a secure place to study and sleep that can meet their specific needs.
Thanks to a shared $25,000 grant from the Michelson 20MM Foundation, Cal Poly Pomona will team up with Cal State Los Angeles, Cal State Northridge, Fresno State, Sacramento State, and San Francisco State University to develop a data-informed toolkit to help formerly incarcerated, currently enrolled CSU students find housing. The foundation funding the effort is a nonprofit aimed at improving access to higher education.
Sociology Assistant Professor Melissa Barragan serves as the executive director of CPP’s Project Rebound, a program designed to help formerly incarcerated students across the CSU system earn bachelor’s degrees and postgraduate degrees. Barragan notes that formerly incarcerated students face several unique challenges when it comes to finding housing.
“To start, on-campus housing tends to cater to traditional, full-time students, and is quite expensive,” said Barragan. “Many of our students tend to be older; some have families; some are just getting back into the job market post-incarceration and/or have limited income; some are on community supervision that includes random house visits by their probation/parole officer; and some are attending part-time rather than full time, which can disqualify them from on-campus housing all together.”
These conditions, along with the fear of stigmatization, make on-campus housing an impractical choice for formerly incarcerated students. Off-campus housing is not easy to secure either as potential residents must pass a criminal background check, according to Barragan.
Therefore, it is vital to develop solutions that can help formerly incarcerated students secure safe and affordable housing where they can not only academically thrive but personally thrive as well, she added
That is where the toolkit comes in. The toolkit will be online and will serve as a practical guide for college campuses looking to create sustainable and equitable housing options for formerly incarcerated students in California and beyond. The template will be posted on each CSU’s Project Rebound website.
The toolkit will feature narratives about housing insecurity from Project Rebound students, sample data collection instruments to assess the housing needs and experiences of formerly incarcerated students, examples of targeted and equitable housing strategies that campuses have developed or are in the process of developing, an overview of relevant federal and California housing policies, and a list of state and regional resources related to housing for formerly incarcerated populations.
The students and staff of Project Rebound programs at various CSU campuses that received this grant will participate in producing this toolkit. Barragan will lead the efforts at CPP. They hope to finish producing the toolkit by the end of this summer.
The CSU Project Rebound initiative started in 1967 at San Francisco State to matriculate people into the college directly from the criminal justice system. In 2016, Project Rebound expanded beyond San Francisco State, resulting in multiple programs at various CSUs, including at CPP.
“Project Rebound provides community for a group of students that has always been at the CSU, and on all college campuses, yet were not provided a real platform for inclusion,” said Barragan. “We provide the resources – social, financial, academic – that can help them succeed academically, but also to fully reintegrate back into society.”