How the College Helps Students Battling Housing Insecurity

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing.

Community College of Philadelphia has long worked to find solutions for students facing housing insecurity. In 2020, The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University conducted a survey of 1,183 CCP students where 57% reported experiencing housing insecurity in the previous year. The concern and efforts to assist students resulted in a partnership with the Philadelphia Housing Authority, known as the Shared Housing Program. The initiative provides low-cost housing options for students near Main Campus, with a focus on those who have been involved in foster care.

One student who found housing through the Shared Housing Program initially grappled with the idea of revealing his housing status for fear it would affect his academic reputation. At the time, in the spring of 2021, Anthony Keenan had recently moved to Philadelphia to pursue his educational journey but couldn’t lock in stable housing.

“Everything was going well for me until an unexpected health issue had arisen,” said Anthony. “This caused me [to have to] reduce my work hours, [which made] my income drop significantly. My first-year anniversary [in Philadelphia] was celebrated with me living in a homeless shelter.” 

Anthony continued to juggle school and personal life, even running for and winning a seat on the Student Government Association as West Regional Center Senator. Although he continued to excel academically, Anthony still struggled with housing. The uncertainty threatened to affect his ability to focus on school and other academic activities. 

“That following school year was one filled with mixed emotions,” he said. “My struggles with anxiety had grown and depression had set in. Many days I questioned whether or not any of this was worth it.”

He continued, “My SGA journey started off with me not being immediately responsive, but I didn’t want this to reflect poorly on me. With much reluctance, I decided to inform my faculty advisors, Jeff Markovitz and Jenavia Weaver, about my struggles with being homeless.”

Anthony’s reluctance is not uncommon. The Hope Center study revealed 44% of students experiencing basic needs insecurity did not apply for campus supports because they did not know how. Anthony was connected to the Shared Housing Program, which provides shared housing at North 10th and 11th streets. Through the program, students are expected to pay rent based on 30 percent of their income or up to $125 a month. 

“This program has greatly impacted my life by giving me stability and shelter when I needed it the most,” said Anthony. “My involvement in this program has allowed me to regain my focus on my academic and career goals. My [two-year] anniversary of being a Philadelphia resident was celebrated with me being in my own place."

While the Shared Housing Program is only able to serve a percentage of students in need of housing, the College has released a list of additional support services and resources through its Enough is Enough initiative, which "strives to exhibit a sense of community and solidarity among the College and the City at large"