Despite progress on protecting California renters from eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1.8 million Californians are still behind on rent payments. New findings from University of California researchers suggest more outreach on California's emergency rental assistance (ERA) program is needed. Wendi Gosliner, of the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute, partnered with researchers at UC Berkeley and the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative to collect survey data on 502 low-income parents of young children residing in California. Survey results found that 22 percent of respondents who were renters deferred rent payments since March 2020, when the pandemic first began to trigger large-scale shutdowns and economic dislocation in the United States. Only 7 percent of survey respondents had received ERA relief payments during the time of interviews. Statewide, many low-income renters remain at a heightened risk of dislocation and potential homelessness when California's eviction moratorium expires on September 30. Survey findings are compiled in a research brief, which includes recommendations for how public and nonprofit entities in California can improve ERA uptake among low-income renters. The survey, part of the Assessing California Communities' Experiences with Safety net Supports (ACCESS), was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with supplemental funding from the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations and Tipping Point.
Previous research conducted by the University of California (UC) Nutrition Policy Institute identified that, in 2016, 44 percent of undergraduate and 26 percent of graduate students at the UC reported having experienced food insecurity; in addition, 5 percent of students reported experiencing homelessness at some point during their enrollment. A new study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion by NPI, UC San Francisco, and Washington State University researchers explores how UC students define basic needs and reports on their experiences of housing insecurity, and food insecurity within the context of housing insecurity. Fifty-eight UC undergraduate and graduate students were recruited from basic needs centers at five UC campuses to participate in researcher-led focus groups. Results showed that UC students define basic needs as more than minimal food and shelter, but also include mental health, well-being, hygiene and safety; they also reported that meeting basic needs was the joint responsibility of students and the university. Students reported multifaceted housing insecurity issues, said that affording rent is a priority that most often leads to experiencing food insecurity, and also that transportation was a key barrier to meeting their basic needs. Further, students with non-traditional characteristics, graduate students, and out-of-state students reported facing unique challenges in meeting basic needs. Limited financial aid, lack of financial aid guidance and unanticipated University fees were additional barriers reported by students to meeting basic needs. Students reported that additional university basic needs services, such as food pantries and other free food programs, were essential in supporting their basic needs. The findings demonstrate the need for multi-faceted basic needs programs that go beyond food and housing on college campuses. The study was led by Suzanna Martinez of UC San Francisco in collaboration with Erin Esaryk and Lorrene Ritchie of NPI, and Laurel Moffat of Washington State University. The study was funded by a grant from the UC Global Food Initiative. The full study is available online.
Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) and affiliated researchers recently conducted research across the University of California (UC) to develop new survey questions to assess student homeless and housing insecurity. They presented their findings during a free webinar, "Redefining Basic Needs and Assessing Housing Insecurity in Higher Education" on August 13, 2020. The webinar was featured NPI affiliated researcher Suzanna Martinez of UC San Francisco and the research team, Erin Esaryk and Eli Jimenez. Martinez shared the newly developed questions for the assessment of homelessness and housing insecurity, provided a student-informed definition of basic needs, and shared UC student experiences of housing and food insecurity from multiple campuses. These findings provide a comprehensive student definition of basic needs to inform research, programs, and policy to address housing and food insecurity in higher education. Findings were discussed in a question and answer session with student leader, Gwen Chodur, of the UC Graduate & Professional Council. The event was co-hosted by Ruben Canedo from UC Berkeley and Tim Galarneau from UC Santa Cruz, co-chairs of the UC Basic Needs Systemwide Effort. The webinar recording is available online. This research project was funded by the UC Global Food Initiative and the full research report and survey questions are available for download online.
Californians are struggling to afford adequate housing and food, yet little is known about the intersection of individuals and families experiencing both housing and food insecurity. The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI)'s 2018/2019 University of California (UC) Global Food Initiative fellow, Melanie Colvin, MPH, identified efforts to address both housing and food insecurity in California. Her findings are detailed in this report, titled "Addressing Food Insecurity for Families and Individuals in California Experiencing Housing Insecurity". The report provides definitions and prevalence rates for food insecurity and housing insecurity and summarizes assessment tools available for researches to measure food insecurity and housing insecurity. The report profiles eight California organizations working to improve access to basic needs services for adults and families who struggle to afford the high cost of living in California. The report also shares policy, programs, and research recommendations to support improved food security for those experiencing housing insecurity, as well as recommendations for how the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources can engage with communities and organizations to improve the delivery of basic needs services for Californians. Read the full report online.