Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Student Experiences in a College-Focused Rapid Rehousing Program: Exploration of Two State University Campuses (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

545P (see Poster Gallery) Student Experiences in a College-Focused Rapid Rehousing Program: Exploration of Two State University Campuses

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Susanna Curry, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University, Sacramento
Molly Calhoun, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University, Chico, Chico, CA
Stephanie Macado, DrPH, Assistant Professor, California State University, Chico, CA
Arturo Baiocchi, PhD, Associate Professor, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA
Felicia Vasquez, MSW, MSW Student, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA
Francis David, MSW, MSW Student, California State University, Sacramento, Sacramento, CA
Background: Current college enrollment rates are nearly triple what they were a fifty years ago, reflecting the growing importance college plays in one’s ability to thrive socially and economically in the United States (Hanson, 2021; Goldrick-Rab, 2016). For many, higher education has become a vehicle of class mobility, yet the ability of college students to complete a degree may be hindered by problems meeting basic needs (Goldrick-Rab et al., 2019). This study explores college student experiences during early implementation of the College-Focused Rapid Rehousing (RRH) program, which provides housing and case management support for students who are homeless or unstably housed, coordinated via colleges and community-based housing providers. Our primary research questions were: 1) What were students’ experiences that led them to RRH? and 2) What are students’ perceptions of the benefits of RRH?

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.