Charity Seaborn, the director of Students Rights and Responsibilities, was curious one semester. She decided to conduct a survey among Roosevelt students about homelessness and tight living situations.
She found out that 60 percent of students who took the survey had experienced either some form of homelessness or a tight money situation.
Roosevelt University, at the time, did not offer much in terms of immediate help for these students.
Seaborn, Pamela Thompson-Hill, the director of the Multicultural Student Support Services and Hilda Rojas-Duarte, the director of Housing and Residence Life, became the Homelessness and Food Insecurity Task Force.
The Homelessness and Food Insecurity Task Force at Roosevelt University works to combat homelessness and difficult financial situations among students at the school. “So, we have this committee on campus under the Dean of Students Office called Students of Concern. And it came from there that students sometimes struggle financially with homelessness whether it be temporary or long term. And then also just food insecurity,” said Seaborn.
“It’s hard I think to be successful in the classroom when you have these other conditions, situations, scenarios happening, obstacles happening that may impact your ability to be successful in the classroom,” Seaborn said. “And so, if there are ways that we can, as a university, help supplement those needs to provide support to students to see them be successful and achieve, then that’s what we, long term, really want to do,” said Seaborn.
The main thing that the task force offers is the pantry, located at WB 318. The pantry is filled with varieties of foods, including both non-perishable items, such as water, canned food, cereal and perishable items, such as apples, milk, eggs, etc. The perishable foods are a somewhat recent addition to the pantry, as the task force has partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
The pantry also provides toiletries, such as toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and soap, all the hygienic basics one can think of. The pantry is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., but Seaborn accepts appointments in the times outside of that, dutifully checking her email everyday.
Another benefit that the task force provides is the Career Closet, where students can come in and pick some business clothes for interviews and jobs. RU also offers emergency housings and showering services. Seaborn works with the Office of Residence Life for emergency housing, saying that it works on a “case-by-case basis.”
“Essentially, they do an intake. They talk to the students about their need. And our goal is like, ‘yes, we can provide you short term housing, but how can we help you find a long term solution?’ So that’s something that we’re definitely hoping to improve over time with community relationships and partnerships,” said Seaborn.
The task force is looking towards the new academic year, with plans and ideas on how to improve their services. Their first move is likely to be a new survey, as it seems some students have voiced needs for school-related items, as well. Seaborn said, “I know students really just need money for books or need a computer or some device or standard school supplies. So, we want to do a survey and really get the feedback from the student body to see what other needs there are that we can meet.”
Seaborn said she is also looking to get more attention and awareness on the pantry through doing a “farmer’s market” at the dining table, as well as provide students with help at the career closet.
“We discussed for the career closet maybe doing a work partnering with career services and doing what not to wear to an interview and kind of how to mix and match your wardrobe to meet your needs for professionalism as things arise,” said Seaborn.
She also talked about the obstacles that could arise with the idea of doing a table in the dining hall, which is the survey. Seaborn explains that the Greater Chicago Food Depository requires people to take a quick survey when grabbing the fresh foods.
But for people who simply want to grab and go, Seaborn said she felt this may deter some students from grabbing the foods. On the other hand, she also talked about how having it in the dining hall may help the students struggling. “And then I think that way, it reduces the stigma. Like, ‘here’s free food. I like free food.’ I hope that can help reduce the stigma of the pantry and really getting students, again, to be aware of what we do have and what the options are upstairs,” said Seaborn.
So, be on the lookout for that survey next semester, and they’re always looking for people to help out. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.