Homelessness. Hunger. Stress.

Those are among the issues that impede many students at Tidewater Community College from completing their certificate or degree program. In fact, a recent survey reported that 42 percent of community college students deal with food insecurity while 12 percent are homeless.

Last fall, Glenn Dubois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, urged community college leaders to address the problem, and TCC’s campuses have responded.

A new partnership between the Virginia Beach Campus and the city’s Department of Human Services is one solution that Provost Mike Summers said should make an immediate impact. The new arrangement gives TCC counselors and advisers a streamlined way to refer Virginia Beach students to the resources they need.

“Now help is instant, and it’s a one-stop shop,” Summers said. “Whether they need a meal, a place to lie their head or access to mental health services, we can help a student in a critical situation immediately.”

Hope UA referral from Marilyn Hodge, dean of Student Services on the Virginia Beach Campus, is all it takes to connect students to resources that can alleviate the most extenuating circumstances. Previously, students had to wait weeks if not months prior to help.

“We’ve realized that students not persisting in their classes is often not related to their academic ability,” Hodge said. “It’s because of life issues. Students and faculty are expressing this to me all the time.”

Among the resources available after referral:

  • A crisis hotline operated 24/7 can place homeless students into emergency housing
  • Same-day appointments for mental health concerns
  • A dining hall in the Department of Human Services. “Someone can walk in and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ and be fed,” Hodge said.
  • A primary care clinic with walk-in hours, which provides assistance to students and their children with physical acute disease management, immunizations, lab services and other health concerns
  • Help with domestic violence issues
  • Financial assistance, including SNAP benefits

In addition, students can access help at the new Virginia Beach Housing Resource Center on North Witchduck Road, a one-stop shop for families and individuals experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis. The $25 million facility integrates shelter, housing, health care, a cafeteria, learning facility, supportive services and community resources and is the first of its kind in South Hampton Roads.

Hodge urges any Virginia Beach students experiencing life challenges they are unable to handle to contact her at mhodge@tcc.edu or 757-822-7245.

The college’s other campuses are also expanding their efforts to help students in need. The Chesapeake Campus will host a 5K on April 27 in partnership with the Hope-U Foundation, a local nonprofit, to highlight food insecurities affecting students. The campus will open a food pantry later this spring. Located in a newly remodeled space in the Whitehurst building, the pantry will provide fresh foods, boxed and canned goods and personal care items for students in need.

The Chesapeake Campus also hosted a poverty simulation in October in cooperation with its Student Government Association and Phi Theta Kappa. Faculty, staff, and students participated in a powerful experience that raised awareness about needs insecurities and poverty.

The Portsmouth Campus offers free snacks to help students who have missed breakfast or lunch make it through their classes. Students on that campus can reach out to Nicole Wilson at nwilson@tcc.edu or Eric Styles at estyles@tcc.edu for further details.