Homeless Panthers navigate resources on campus, but where’s faculty support?

Photo by Vanessa Johnson | The Signal

In 2016, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs found Fulton County’s population to be made up of 5,959 homeless people. In total, Georgia is populated with nearly 17,000 people without a home.

In a 2015 study conducted by Atlanta youth court, metro Atlanta had 3,374 homeless and runaway youth with 31.5 percent of that being students. The most common reasons that these students found themselves displaced were cited as financial and family problems.

Last year, the Student Government Association (SGA) recognized the issue and worked closely with the Dean of Students to create a beneficial resolution that would add crucial resource information on students’ syllabi, but faculty rejected the idea saying it added too much “clutter.”

SGA Resolution

In 2016, when SGA first began working with faculty, former SGA Sen. Justin Brightharp said a big problem the association was concerned with was that students were not aware of the available resources on campus.

Brightharp worked closely with students who experienced homelessness and the staff for the Dean of Students to discuss ways to help. After conducting research, they realized that homelessness affects anyone, even Georgia State students, and created a resolution.

In 2016, Brightharp and SGA introduced a resolution called “The Syllabi Resource Awareness Resolution of spring 2016.” It requested that the contact information for the Dean of Students office be placed on every Georgia State professor’s syllabus.

“The resolution was to put it on class syllabi since all students are required to receive one when they go to class,” Brightharp said.

Placing contact information for the Dean in syllabi would give students information about displacement or necessities like food and housing.

The SGA resolution also requested the help of faculty and staff to develop a better understanding of issues students face. Faculty and staff were encouraged by SGA to make plans and change their syllabus to accommodate displaced students.

Once it was unanimously passed by SGA, the legislation moved on to get approval from faculty committees.

Although Georgia State students were supportive of the resolution, faculty committees were not.

“Faculty committees didn’t want to add more information onto a cluttered syllabus,” Brightharp said. The legislation stalled in the process of getting approval from faculty, and eventually fell through.

According to Brightharp, SGA did go back to create another option and revise the resolution; however, that never happened either. At the end of the day, Brightharp said, students needed to put the effort in too.

“We can change the policy, but we need the students to change the culture,” Brightharp said. If a student is experiencing homelessness, they can visit the Dean of Students office which is located in Student Center East, Suite 303.

Panther’s Pantry

Without a clear guide on the syllabus, students are left on their own to navigate affordable (or free) options on campus. One resource that has been catering to the Georgia State community since 2014 is Panther’s Pantry.

Trang Pham, Panther Pantry’s manager and Georgia State graduate student, said that the main mission of Panther’s Pantry is to “alleviate hunger among our food insecure students so they can be successful.”

“Up to 68 percent of students experience food shortage from one time to another,” Pham said.

On average, Panther Pantry serves about 50 to 55 students per week. The process to shop at Panther’s Pantry is simple, according to Pham. All a student needs is their Panther ID card to be eligible to shop.

Students are then given a list that contains items and the max quantity that each shopper is allotted. Panther’s Pantry inventory ranges from canned goods to toiletries. Students are allowed to shop at Panther’s Pantry once a week.

A Georgia State sophomore who chose to remain anonymous said that, even though she has a part-time job, she cannot always afford groceries on her own.

“I have a part-time job, but I only work weekends, so I do not have a steady income coming in weekly.” she said.

With no steady income and trying to make ends meet with rent and keep on top of classes, she said that Panther’s Pantry really is beneficial.

“Going to Panther’s Pantry every week and getting food really helps me. It is nice to know that Georgia State offers something like this to their students. I just wish that more people knew about it,” she said. “Students in need should have more resources to help them find places to live on campus and help pay for school besides FAFSA.”