Enrolled, Homeless and Hungry?

According to a Rockville campus professor, at least one student becomes homeless throughout the school year but fights to continue being enrolled despite it. Our school offers a number of opportunities for those in need to help satisfy its students, whether their needs are small or large. Here at Montgomery College, the goals of the school are not restricted only to helping students along with their academic journey- but also with their personal journey as well. MC serves as a home to its students, many of whom are in the United States all by themselves or who are being hosted by people they aren’t related to. But what about when classes end? When buildings lock at the end of the day as the campus closes? What serves as a home for students then? Is it their own houses? Or is it anywhere they can find to rest their heads at night?

Tatiana Mbelo had left her home of the Democratic Republic of Congo only a few months ago when the friend who had agreed to help host her in the United States decided to suddenly move out of the apartment they shared to pursue a relationship.

“I couldn’t afford to pay rent on my own and I had just enrolled in Montgomery College for the Spring semester. I was trying to find a job but it was difficult because my English was so poor back then. I was so scaredI didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t have even afforded a plane ticket to go back home at that point.”

Despite her worries that she would so find herself without a place to live, Tatiana remained enrolled in her classes and eventually got help finding a job through a counselor at the Rockville Campus who referred to a restaurant with a French-speaking manager.

According to Rachel Bonaparte, an associate professor of communications studies here at the Rockville Campus, there have been a handful of students in only the past few years who have struggled to find places to live while being enrolled in school.

“Unfortunately, I have at least one student each year who is either homeless at the beginning of the semester or who becomes homeless at some point during the semester. Before the introduction of the mobile market and before I realized that there is a food pantry, I would feel compelled to assist these students by identifying shelters, providing money, providing food, connecting them with MC Counselors, and/or possibly helping them with their job search and/or connecting them with MC career services. So, I am thankful that the college continues to identify resources for students. This especially because there is a large chance that students who are in need may not speak up.”

Thanks to faculty like Professor Bonaparte the school is having more and more success in providing help to those who need it and connecting student with the opportunities and resources they need to be successful.

Besides assistance with housing and helping students find jobs, another particularly incredible goal the college has set for itself is to help provide the students here on campus access to healthy, affordable and nutritious food. The “Food for Life” initiative is a workshop created by the college to help teach students how to eat healthy in a cost-efficient way. Focuses include budgeting, meal planning, shopping for healthy foods and even gardening. You may have even seen facilitators of the workshop handing out locally grown organic vegetables in the Science Center to spread the word about the workshops. You can contact the facilitators of the workshops Natalie or Shahid for more information at [email protected].

Even better than being taught how to be a financially apt and healthy consumer is actually receiving healthy, nutritious organic groceries for free (yes, really free!) right here on campus. Mobile Markets are a monthly food bank set up at each of the free campuses that provide donated fruits, vegetables, pastas, canned goods and more to students, faculty and community members at absolutely no cost. You simply line up at each table with a bag and get ready to collect. According to Advocate staff writer Marissa Fried who covered one of the Mobile Markets in an article of her own just a few months ago, the number students who come out to the events each month is quite grand. As mentioned in Fried’s article, it is not uncommon for students pursuing higher education to experience food insecurity.

For those who need them, the resources are there, it is only a matter of speaking up if and when you do need help. If you or someone you know is struggling with find housing or food, we encourage you to contact Professor Bonaparte ([email protected]) or another Montgomery College counselor or faculty member for assistance.