Housing program blooms from experience with students in crisis

NSCC student services employee lifts real life challenges into a student housing solution

Housing program blooms from experience with students in crisis

Lisa Mader, Student Services Counsellor Personal and Career.

“I believe the food, shelter and emotional support we offer through this program will help keep students on track to finish their training and start successful careers." ~ Lisa Mader

Fast Fact

Launched as a pilot in September 2019, the Metro Emergency Housing Program offers short-term housing to Akerley, Ivany, and Institute of Technology Campus students, as well as eCampus students in the metro area, who are experiencing an immediate risk to their personal safety.

Lisa Mader says welcoming the first student to NSCC's Metro Emergency Housing Program was an emotional experience for everyone involved.

"Just to see their face as they walked through the furnished apartment we had secured for them, it was clear how much it meant to have a beautiful, safe place to call home," says Lisa, a  Student Services Counsellor Personal & Career, Student & Career Services at IT Campus. "It was also incredible for me to see a dream I've had for five years finally come true."

Launched as a pilot in September 2019, the Metro Emergency Housing Program offers short-term housing to Akerley, Ivany, and Institute of Technology Campus students, as well as eCampus students in the metro area, who are experiencing an immediate risk to their personal safety.

"Safe housing is essential for student success and mental wellness," Mader says. "Although we have great shelters throughout the municipality, none of them are quite geared to meet the needs of post-secondary students who are experiencing anxiety and uncertainty about their living conditions. I wanted to create an NSCC program to fill that gap and started looking for ways to make that happen."

Pilot project

The solution came to Mader through NSCC's Learning College Portfolio program. "The program encourages professional support staff to work on a learning project, so I made the emergency housing program my project," she says. "I launched a housing needs assessment, scanned the province and country for best practices in addressing homelessness among post-secondary students, and then used the information I gathered to develop the pilot project."

Metro Emergency Housing applicants are assessed by Student Services counsellors based on a range of criteria. They include current living conditions — everything from bedbugs and flooding to emotional, physical, and sexual harm — finances, and whether they have friends or family they can stay with.

"Once they are selected, we are able to offer them a range of housing options, including a one-bedroom apartment that can house up to two adults and two children, hotel rooms located in Dartmouth and Halifax and residence rooms at post-secondary’s across the city," Lisa says. "We can also provide food and transportation assistance, as well as care packages designed for both adults and children, so we try to meet all of their immediate needs."

Support and progress

Thanks to financial support from the NSCC Foundation and the College, all costs are covered for the program, but students are aware that the housing is only meant to be short-term. "They sign an agreement that they will develop a plan for more permanent housing, and they have access to support from their campus Student Services counsellor or advisor to help them in those efforts," Lisa explains. "The goal is they will have something arranged within one month of starting the program. If not, we will work with them to find a solution."

Six students have been accepted into the pilot so far. Lisa is hopeful that as long as there is demand for the program, we will be able to support it and potentially enable expansion to other campuses. "I believe the food, shelter and emotional support we offer through this program will help keep students on track to finish their training and start successful careers," she says. "Seeing how people have embraced it – both at the College and in the community – has been very encouraging, and that gives me more energy and drive to do what I do every day."​

24/01/20

“I believe the food, shelter and emotional support we offer through this program will help keep students on track to finish their training and start successful careers." ~ Lisa Mader

Fast Fact

Launched as a pilot in September 2019, the Metro Emergency Housing Program offers short-term housing to Akerley, Ivany, and Institute of Technology Campus students, as well as eCampus students in the metro area, who are experiencing an immediate risk to their personal safety.

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