Text and Photos by Patricia Chourio
The third week of the semester at Kennesaw State University, while many students were concerned about parking or trying to avoid long lines to get their books, Jalyn was trying to find a place to live. Nineteen and from Indiana, she was living at an extended-stay hotel until she could find a place she could afford. She and her family have been homeless since the summer of 2012.
Until this summer, Jalyn shared an Indiana hotel room with her three brothers and mother. They didn’t own a car, couldn’t afford new clothes and most of the time there was not enough food. Although this situation took an emotional toll, Jalyn didn’t let it affect her schoolwork or her grades. She graduated from high school in May 2013 with 10 extra credits and was recognized as an honor student. Kennesaw accepted her that year but she decided to stay home temporarily to help her mother, who was pregnant.
Although Jalyn is currently paying more for her hotel room than she would at any on-campus apartment, she is unable to sign a contract because she doesn’t have state identification. To get a state ID she needs to show the DMV at least two utility bills as proof of residence. Jalyn is only able to get one from her hotel room. Without a second utility bill, she is unable to get her ID. Without her ID she has no other option but to pay for another week at the hotel and try to find another way to move out as soon as possible.
Jalyn’s family are doing all they can to send her money every week but most of what she gets goes to pay for her hotel room. Some days she is able to eat twice a day, others only once. She is waiting for her financial aid; it was put on hold because she had not been able to confirm a home address in Georgia.
Jalyn’s mother encouraged her to reach out to the C.A.R.E. Center at KSU. Students who are homeless or at risk of being homeless can get counseling, access to the food pantry and other support. The Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment Center also gives students care packages of toiletries whenever they need them. C.A.R.E. has served more than 100 Kennesaw State homeless students since it began in August 2011.
Jalyn wanted to tell her story because “I want people to know that they’re not alone.”
Paul is a KSU senior who transferred from Middle Georgia College to finish his degree. When his residence plans fell through, he found himself struggling with homelessness at the start of the semester. The C.A.R.E. center helped him find a room at the Cobb Street Ministry, where he stayed for three weeks. Due to their strict curfew, he had to miss his afternoon classes. However, his teachers were very flexible and allowed him to work from home. With assistance from the C.A.R.E. center, Paul was able to secure a place to live on campus.
“People don’t realize there are resources available for them,” he said. His advice to any student in a similar situation is “don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Nationally more than 58,000 students reported on their 2012-13 FAFSA that they are struggling with homelessness.
Update: According to financial aid applications from 2018, there are more than 68,000 students in America who claim to be homeless. This number reflects homelessness of only those students that applied for aid and also chose to complete the questions about their housing circumstances.
See more photography by Patricia Chourio
Read more coverage on youth homelessness issues at JJIE
Learn more about homelessness in America
Explore ways you can help.
National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week is held each year the week before Thanksgiving.