Methods: This study is based on 19 in-depth interviews with students who were currently enrolled in an RRH program at one of two state universities (10 at one and 9 at the other) in the Western United States. Participants were recruited via email directly by the researchers or campus staff. Across both campuses, the sample included students ages 18-53 (M = 28.3, SD = 10.54). Among those who reported demographics, the majority identified as female (n = 11), followed by 5 male, 1 gender queer/gender non-conforming, and 1 non-binary student. Most students identified as white/Caucasian (n = 7) or Hispanic/Latino (n = 5), 1 as Black, 1 as Asian/Asian Indian, and 2 as multiracial. Twelve identified as heterosexual/straight, 2 bisexual, 2 gay/lesbian, and 2 pansexual. Interviews were conducted via Zoom and lasted approximately 45-60 minutes. Zoom recordings were transcribed and coded in Dedoose qualitative software. Constructivist grounded theory was used to analyze the data. Two researchers coded the transcripts, and a spot check was completed to ensure fidelity in coding.
Results: Initial findings indicate that students who enter the RRH program come with complex backgrounds including trauma, family estrangement, and pre-existing mental health struggles. Every RRH student entered the program with some form of housing instability including being unhoused, living on couches and/or unsafe and precarious living situations. For the most part, having access to housing provided quiet, safe space, stress relief and the ability to focus on academics. However, not every student attributed access to RRH as a driver of academic achievement and improved health/wellness. For several students, access to housing was not enough to overcome their other life stressors. Additionally, participants cited the pandemic as impacting their ability to connect with peers and campus communities, which ultimately challenged their academic success, health, and wellness.
Conclusion: Despite the RRH housing support, complex histories do not go away. The case management component in an RRH program is a critical component of the program as in accordance with the housing first model, support for those who are unhoused needs go beyond the housing, even in the college setting. Future research must further examine the connection between housing, academics, and wellness as well as housing supports post-graduation.