The Thanksgiving Holiday is close at hand, which gives everyone the opportunity to pause and give thanks. It is also a great time to consider students who might be in need of support. In Sept. 2019, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University published the 2018 #RealCollege Survey, which assessed food and housing insecurity at Denver-area colleges. According to the data, “40% of respondents experienced food insecurity in the prior 30 days” and “55% of respondents experienced housing insecurity in the previous year.” At the University of Colorado Denver, two programs help to address basic needs insecurity—the CU Denver Food Pantry and Loving Lynx.
Food Pantry open to all students
The food pantry, located in the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center on the 3rd floor, offers free non-perishable food and personal hygiene items. All students receive 10 points each week to use at the food pantry. The campus community and local organizations keep the pantry stocked. Hayase Yoshizumi, Health Promotion & Engagement Coordinator, said donations come primarily from “full-time employees on campus, Student Wellness Center members, and the Food Bank of the Rockies.”
Loving Lynx helps students with unanticipated events
The Office of Case Management offers another crucial service to help students in immediate need: Loving Lynx Program. Students dealing with unanticipated financial emergencies such as a need for temporary housing, accident, medical or dental emergency, or impacts of a natural disaster can apply for Loving Lynx funds. In the past, qualifying expenses have included short-term housing, medications, and replacement of essential personal belongings. Brooke Trujillo, Director of the Office of Case Management & CARE Team, said that after students apply for Loving Lynx, they are paired with a case manager to explore their needs, Financial Aid eligibility for loans and grants, and to create a short-term and long-term plan. An evaluation is then completed to determine if the student is eligible to receive Loving Lynx funds.
Additionally, Case Management staff help Loving Lynx applicants in other ways. “As I’m sure you can imagine, when students are facing housing and/or food insecurity, other areas of their life are typically also impacted. Increased stress may lead to academic decline and have a negative impact on mental health. We work to explore other resources, both on and off campus, that may be helpful. This may be a referral to the Counseling Center, professor advocacy, or taking a trip to the Food Pantry in the Wellness Center,” Trujillo said.
One student who received Loving Lynx funds in order to avoid eviction explained how this temporary assistance helped: “As a graduate student, I constantly have the eye on the prize and aim to reach my goals. Unfortunately, after losing my job and my health insurance, I relapsed into a dark depression. Loving Lynx and the CU community as a whole helped me regain my path both mentally and emotionally through the counseling center and with economic assistance to keep my apartment’s rent paid.” Ultimately, the emergency funding allowed this student to remain enrolled in graduate school.
Mary Ozanic, a graduate student who used the Loving Lynx Program to help pay rent, explains that the program helped her in both the short and long term. “Due to the consequences of a personal mental health crisis, I found myself facing homelessness due to an inability to catch up on my past-due rent. The Loving Lynx Program not only was able to make a payment on my rent balance. They also referred me to even more resources available to students, particularly through the Wellness Center, for example, workshops on personal finances and how to create and maintain a budget for myself,” Mary said.
“Food insecurity, housing insecurity, and homelessness are overlapping concerns, with 66% of students at participating colleges in Denver experiencing at least one of these forms of basic insecurity in the past year,” the #RealCollege survey concluded. The CU Food Pantry and Loving Lynx program are responding to these critical student needs. The true benefits of these services go beyond emergency assistance. “A donation to the Loving Lynx Fund is an authentic investment in human lives and in our future as a whole. What the Loving Lynx Program did for me both as a student and as an individual was far more than just a financial contribution toward my housing. Loving Lynx gave me hope as a human being that my life has inherent value and that I matter to the world,” Mary said.
To donate to the Loving Lynx Program, click here.