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Closing the Gap on Homelessness: Clark Offers Options

Adversity is the bedrock upon which the temple of life is built. Nothing worthwhile comes without struggle, hardship and sacrifice. Instead of suffering in silence, students should know that help is likely at their fingertips.

For many, buying food, paying rent and paying bills become a quagmire threatening to swallow students up in daily monetary barriers. The Homelessness Prevention and Housing Program, through the Workforce Education Services Office, helps students manage financial status and academics by providing rental assistance for those in critical situations to keep their homes.

“The program is designed to close that gap for students at risk of homelessness,” Armetta Burney, director of workforce education services, said. “If a student is couch surfing, or they are running into a situation where they are unable to pay their rent, then this program will help them.”

Clark applied for a grant from the City of Vancouver Affordable Housing Fund and became part of a consortium of community partners dedicated to providing support to community members in need.

Although the college acts as a direct referral agency, eligibility can be touch-and-go. Unexpected roadblocks such as geographical location can be barriers to receiving aid, which is frustrating to struggling students.

“Clark determines pre-eligibility. Final eligibility is decided by the Council for the Homeless,” said Burney. To qualify, a student must be enrolled at Clark and reside within the city limits of Vancouver.

“There’s a map students can go by,” Tatyana Chernichenko, program coordinator for homelessness prevention, said. “Unfortunately some unincorporated areas like Hazel Dell, Orchards and Brush Prairie are not included in this.” However, non-eligibility for the rental assistance program is not strictly a closed door.

Students who do not meet the requirements are encouraged to contact the Council for the Homeless directly. The council can refer applicants, who do not have to be students, to additional programs for which the applicant may still qualify.

Since the program’s launch in June, it has helped over 35 students maintain and find housing. Each case is unique. Some students received aid for rent and back rent. Others were provided the cost of an apartment’s application fee, deposit and first month’s rent.

“Once they pass our pre-eligibility they go on to the next step. They talk to someone from Council for the Homeless and that is when they determine what avenue they are sent into,” Chernichenko said.

“It’s not a one size fits all, it’s based on what their individual need is,” Burney said.

More information on the programs can be found at: clark.edu/cc/housing help.

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