State Rep. Earl L. Harris Jr. collaborates with local, national organizations to combat student hunger, homelessness

IBLC, News & Media

INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Earl L. Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago) today commented that he is not discouraged by the General Assembly's failure to study homelessness, housing insecurity and food insecurity among college students in Indiana, and is partnering with local and national organizations to tackle the issues himself.

Earlier this week, the Legislative Council adopted a resolution to assign study topics to the 2021 Interim Study Committees. Harris's proposal was not assigned to a committee.

“I'm disappointed that the Legislative Council didn't approve my proposal,” Harris said. “But that's not going to deter my efforts to provide students with the resources they need to succeed.”

The College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) found that 30% of college students nationally are food insecure. Further study found that 75% of food insecure students are already receiving some form of financial aid.

Data from the Indiana Department of Education found that the number of homeless students enrolled in Indiana schools doubled from 8,900 in 2008 to 16,300 in 2018. Harris highlighted the fact that those include high school students who may wish to pursue higher education, but cannot bear the financial burden.

“How many students are we losing to these financial burdens?” Harris asked. “With every student that is forced out of higher education, Indiana loses a skilled worker and that will take a serious toll on our economy and manufacturing reputation.

“I think many overlook the fact that financial aid and scholarships don't always cover housing and food costs. So on top of tuition, textbook fees, technology fees and other supplies, students have to find a way to pay for groceries and rent. Unfortunately, that's just not possible for everyone in a good year, much less during a pandemic.”

Harris has received substantial support from not only Indiana's universities, colleges and advocacy groups, but national organizations as well. Harris announced that he is currently collaborating with Feeding Indiana's Hungry, Indiana Institute for Working Families, Foster Success and Swipe out Hunger to take a closer look at the issues and strategize solutions to eliminate them.

“The support I've received from these organizations has been very encouraging,” Harris added. “I look forward to working with them to get more Hoosier college students across the finish line.”

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