Helping the homeless

Marcy Stidum CARE Center dc 1.jpg

KSU's CARE Center serves at-risk college student population

Concealed on bookcases lining a hallway in Kennesaw Hall is a stash of essentials for college students. It’s a treasure trove of basic necessities — toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and soap — given to KSU students who are, or on the brink of, homelessness.

KSU’s Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment (CARE) Center, maintains the coveted stash as part of the Owl’s Closet, a donation-based collection program that provides food, clothing and toiletries to KSU students who are dealing with homelessness or at risk of being homeless.

Marcy Stidum is director of the CARE Center, which launched officially a year ago as part of the Student Success Services division. Stidum has been working with the university’s homeless population for the past three years and has helped nearly 75 students, or about a dozen students each semester.

“Our students don’t come to college homeless,” Stidum said. “Most of the time it’s situational, like parental abandonment, such as the sudden death of a parent or the rejection of their child’s sexual orientation.”

“There’s also generational poverty,” said Stidum, adding that many of KSU’s first-generation college students have experienced poverty or homelessness. “The economic crisis has greatly impacted this generation.”

Besides doling out the initial care package, Stidum helps students secure living quarters, even if just temporarily, in a shelter, hotel or on-campus apartment.
She works closely with the offices of Housing, Financial Aid, The Commons and even faculty, to give extra support to this small population of KSU students.

The hardest task is identifying the students who need the center’s help, Stidum explained. Sometimes, she’s tipped by Parking Services staff who identify students who are repeatedly sleeping in their cars overnight, or the Library staff who know that if the facility stayed open 24/7, which students would be overnight guests.

“A shower, a meal, a bed to sleep in are the basic things that a student needs to succeed academically,” said Stidum.  The CARE Center addresses the psychological and safety needs of homeless students, helping them to meet their daily living needs with both on-campus and off-campus resources.

Besides helping them find housing, Stidum and the center’s staff work with students to help them find employment, create budgets and learn how to save money. The center often provides clothing, especially in the winter, through the Owl’s Closet and works with KSU’s Feed the Future program to ensure students have food.

“I tap the resources that I have,” said Stidum, who runs down a checklist of what the student needs and what the center can provide to ease the homelessness burden. “They want to walk out of here with dignity. They really want to be normal college students.”

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- Tiffany Capuano;  Photo by David Caselli