COLUMBUS (WCMH)–A new program launching this summer at Columbus State Community College is creating a housing safety net for low income students. Success Bridge will start in the 2020-2021 academic year with the goal of providing housing assistance.
“We’re looking at this in a holistic and innovative way for students,” said Molly Ward, the director of the Center for Advising, Support and Exploration at CSCC.
A 2018 study of more than 1,200 Columbus State students found 60 percent of them struggled to afford housing and 14 percent had experienced homelessness within the previous year. Unemployment and financial stress during COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the issue.
“If they were struggling before, they’re struggling even more now with the loss of jobs in our community,” explained Charles Hillman, the president and CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA).
The three-year program will offer a short-term and “medium-term” component. The short-term option will provide emergency relief for a housing crisis that could derail a student’s college plan. The longer term option covers the total cost of rent and utilities at apartments near Capital University in Bexley for several dozen students.
Ward added, “Our students are going to be in a space that’s right on a bus line. We’ll be able to get them to and from school because we know transportation is also likely an insecurity for them.”
The Homeless Families Foundation will screen students to assess their financial needs. To qualify, students must be in good academic standing and have completed at least 24 credit hours. Other organizations, including CMHA, the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio and the Community Shelter Board also collaborated to develop and implement the program.
“Success Bridge is a gleaming example of providing our residents not just access to social services, but quality, affordable housing,” Hillman said.
Funding was secured with a grant from the Weiler Fund at the Columbus Foundation, with matching funds from CMHA. Hillman explained giving students affordable, secure housing sets them up to finish their degrees and find better paying jobs within the community. The upward mobility can break a family out of generational poverty and have lasting effects on the community.
“Stronger, educated, stably housed people are strong community members,” Hillman said.
In addition to the rental assistance, the program will also establish a Success Bridge Advocacy and Resource Center, which Ward says will provide access to housing counseling and career development resources, as well as connect students with outside community services.
“We know students who complete at Columbus State go into the Columbus workforce, so we’re going to give back to the Columbus community as well,” said Ward.