Partnerships Increase MCTC Students’ Access to Housing

 

By: Yasir Hassan

April 10, 2017


My name is Yasir Hassan, and I am an AmeriCorps VISTA at Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC). As an urban community college, MCTC provides unique opportunities to its diverse student-body of 12,000 learners. MCTC offers many academic and non-academic resources intended to help students access the transformative power of education.

I currently serve in the Student Support Center, which is the campus hub for non-academic support resources. Healthcare, housing, and food are three of the pillars of need experienced by MCTC students – although there are many other needs that we address. We operate our own food pantry/student depot and collaborate with local churches and non-profit organizations to provide lunch through our Center. Recently, our Center partnered with the Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ, which now donates non-perishable groceries to the food pantry. We have had a relationship with Second Harvest and Groveland Emergency Food Shelf for several years.  This helps significantly in providing food to students in need.  Furthermore, we began addressing the issues of health disparities by inviting certified MNsure navigators from Southside Health to provide health insurance application assistance to students.

Our third pillar, housing, has been the most difficult to address. I began by first assessing the needs of our students through informal conversations. Then, I attended a housing fair at the University of Minnesota to get some ideas. With this knowledge, I began developing a strategy to address our housing resource deficiency.

In January, I started creating bi-weekly housing listings. There are two kinds of lists: a general housing list and a felon-friendly housing list. These lists contain up-to-date available housing accompanied by relevant information such as location, price, and number of bathrooms and bedrooms. This item quickly turned into a hot commodity on campus. In fact, 959 housing packets were distributed in the first four weeks of this pilot project.

Next, I organized a housing fair in February, which included landlords, property management companies, and affordable housing providers. The event was successful and very well received, but finding property owners interested in participating was a challenge. It was asked that I begin planning for the next housing fair, which is scheduled to occur in September.

I began exploring ways of organizing a successful housing fair without expending so much effort and time. I decided to use the success of the housing listings to leverage greater participation in the housing fair. To do this I began developing relationships with landlords and management companies that will have their available units and contact information prioritized on the Center’s housing list. They will appear on the first or second page if they participate in our housing fair and other related housing programming on campus. So far, this technique has done wonders, as I have already received several positive responses. For example, one of the property owners replied, “Thank you so much for your kind message and for including us in the housing listing.  We especially appreciate our location at the top of the list, and we will do our best to always stay at the top of the list for you and your organization.” The future is optimistic, and I am hopeful the next housing fair will be bigger and better than the previous one.

Additional services provided by the Student Support Center, directly or through referrals are: child care grant, emergency financial assistance, transportation assistance, personal counseling, legal assistance, county benefit assistance and more.

Learn more about the MCTC’s Student Support Center at https://www.minneapolis.edu/student-services/support-services/