Resources for Students With Basic Needs Insecurity

September 27, 2021

Edited by Hannah Muniz
Reviewed by Laila Abdalla, Ph.D.
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Recent data has found that around 3 in 5 U.S. college students experience some form of basic needs insecurity, whether that's a lack of food due to insufficient finances, unreliable living arrangements, or even homelessness.

Many students facing food and/or housing insecurity struggle to find the support and guidance they need. The following list includes links to an array of resources, such as nonprofits that advocate for homeless students, interactive tools and maps for finding affordable housing, and government programs and benefits for low-income individuals.

Housing Assistance

Food and Nutrition Assistance

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

    Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP offers funding for food purchases to homeless individuals and low-income households. Eligible recipients may purchase any food that will be consumed at home, as well as seeds and plants that bear edible food.

  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children

    A national service, WIC offers grants for food purchases, healthcare referrals, and nutrition education programs to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, as well as at-risk children up to age 5. Eligibility is based on family size and net weekly income.

  • Feeding America

    Comprising 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries, Feeding America provides meals to homeless and low-income individuals throughout the U.S. Roughly 1 in 7 Americans receives meals from these facilities. The official website helps people locate food banks and pantries in their communities.

  • Food Pantries

    Students experiencing homelessness and basic needs insecurity can use this site to locate food banks, soup kitchens, and nonprofits dedicated to providing food assistance. In addition to a nationwide search tool, site visitors can access information about government and nonprofit grocery programs.

Transportation, Childcare, and Living Expenses

Mental Health and Medical Care

  • Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program

    Medicaid and CHIP provide free or discounted health insurance to millions across the country, including homeless college students and low-income families. Candidates must submit an application to the Health Insurance Marketplace. If eligible, their information will be referred to the agency in their state of residence.

  • National Health Care for the Homeless Council

    This organization provides support to more than 200 public health centers in all 50 states. The website features a national directory of health centers where homeless individuals and their families can access treatment and other support services.

  • ULifeline

    ULifeline is a free, confidential hotline that allows college students to receive support and care for mental and emotional health concerns. Created by The Jed Foundation, ULifeline currently operates at more than 1,500 colleges and universities around the country.

  • Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator

    Many people experiencing homelessness and basic needs insecurity live with alcoholism and other substance use disorders. SAMHSA maintains a locator tool that connects visitors to behavioral health treatment services in their local communities.

  • Campus Health Centers

    Students with basic needs insecurity are encouraged to reach out to their campus health center if they have any medical or mental health conditions. Many schools offer free or discounted health insurance and low-cost treatment and counseling options to enrolled students.

Federal Benefits and Other Government Programs

Legal Information and Support

  • National Homelessness Law Center

    This nonprofit offers legal advice and services to more than 3.5 million homeless families and individuals. The website features information and resources regarding housing rights, civil rights for people experiencing homelessness, and youth and education rights.

  • National Coalition for the Homeless

    This coalition seeks to connect people who are homeless or have experienced homelessness with activists, advocates, and service providers in their communities. NCH offers resources for groups disproportionately affected by homelessness, such as the elderly, youths, veterans, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Fair Housing Complaint and Investigation Process

    Many people experiencing basic needs insecurity encounter discrimination when attempting to secure housing. Affected individuals can file an official complaint with HUD at no charge. This page breaks down the step-by-step process for filing and following up on these complaints.

  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act FAQ

    Signed into law in 1987, this act remains a key piece of legislation for the educational rights of homeless children and youth. This 2017 guide addresses common questions and concerns about the act, including college-related matters like fee waivers and financial aid.

Volunteer Opportunities


Editor's Note: This article contains general information and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a professional advisor before making decisions about financial, legal, and/or health-related issues.


Feature Image: Leestat / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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