Students leave the Bonnell Building at the Community College of Philadelphia (Philadelphia Tribune photo)
By Stephen Williams
PHILADELPHIA — The Community College of Philadelphia and the city’s housing agency have teamed up to create a low-cost housing model for students at the school who are experiencing homelessness or need affordable housing, with a focus of students who have been in foster care.
“What I love most about this partnership is that students are paired with a support coach to help them better navigate life not only at the college but to ensure that they receive the necessary social-emotional support and safety networks of others their age,” college President Donald Generals said. “We are doing everything in our power to ease the burdens our students face and make it easier for them to continue their studies and realize their dreams.”
Last week, CCP and the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) held a ribbon-cutting for a newly renovated rowhome in the 500 block of North 11th Street that has three, three-bedroom apartments each on their own floor.
In each apartment, students share a living room, kitchen, and bathroom, but each has their own bedroom. The CCP students will pay rent based on 30% of their income, up to $125 a month. Most will likely pay less than that. By comparison, the median rent in the surrounding neighborhood is more than $2,000 a month. The home will house up to nine students and will be fully furnished by the college. The utilities will be paid for by PHA, which will manage and maintain the homes.
Barry Johnson, a CCP spokesperson, said the students will begin moving in over the next few weeks, as they apply and are accepted.
“The shared housing partnership is an approach that dismantles some of the barriers to college completion that are unique to homeless and housing-insecure college students, and undermine their ability to succeed,” said Kelvin A. Jeremiah, president and CEO of PHA. “Financial setbacks and homelessness force many low-income students to drop out of college. This partnership provides them a foothold and a chance to transition, through education, to self-sufficiency and permanent housing. When college students succeed, everyone in our community benefits.”
According to Johnson, the partnership’s first rowhome opened last fall and is fully leased with seven students.
In addition to the housing, students at CCP who are deemed eligible can join a stability plan, where they will be paired with a college program coordinator to help their transition out of shared housing and into a stable, permanent residence. CCP will monitor and assess the initiative’s success based on their retention and graduation rates, along with their success transitioning to permanent housing.
Other services available to CCP students include special wrap-around support services to ensure they succeed at the college. For example, there is support available for students with experience in the foster care system; free assistance with health care insurance, food resources, cash, and other subsidies.
Students also have access to academic counseling and assistance with scholarship and career readiness support.
Stephen Williams is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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