Picture of Aggie House Co-founders Ashley Lo (right) and Alan O'Brien. Both are standing in front of a colorful mural.
Aggie House co-founders Ashley Lo (right) and Alana O’Brien.

Students to Help Students Find Stable Housing 

by Cari DuBois-Wright, Associate Director of Development in Parent Giving

Last month I shared how I never stop marveling at the generosity and dedication of UC Davis parents. This month I’d like to talk about our amazing students, who are joining forces to address a growing problem at UC Davis and campuses nationwide: housing insecurity and homelessness among students. 

A new student organization is forming to create Aggie House, a facility offering transitional shelter and relocation assistance for up to a dozen students at a time for a maximum of 10 weeks, or one academic quarter. That means Aggie House will serve at least 48 students per year. Projected to open in fall 2021, the facility will be modeled after similar programs at UCLA (Bruin Shelter) and USC (Trojan Shelter). 

“Our team was motivated to start Aggie House after learning about the pervasive issue of housing insecurity on college campuses,” said Ashley Lo ’22, who spearheads the leadership team with fellow students Alana O’Brien ’21 and Katie Shen ’22. 

Ashley points to a 2017-2018 Housing Affordability and Insecurity Survey conducted by the UC Davis Associated Students and the Graduate Student Association, in which 7 percent of students reported being homeless at some point during the school year. When housing insecurity was added, that figure rose to some 18 percent. Homelessness, defined as a lack of stable or reliable housing, includes such circumstances as living on the street, in cars or motels, or sleeping on friends’ couches. “Housing insecurity” includes inability to pay rent or utilities, or the need to move frequently due to financial uncertainty. 

Not surprisingly, those conditions impact student performance: GPAs are highest among students who do not experience housing/food insecurity and lowest among those who do. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the strain on students, Ashley noted: “Many students have been forced to work to support their families and are struggling to pay rent, often stuck in leases they can’t afford. We expect that by the time we open, a transitional housing shelter will be absolutely vital to students who were most heavily impacted by this pandemic.” 

Ashley describes Aggie House as a win-win for students—both for those receiving services and those providing them. Each year some 60 rigorously selected and trained student volunteers will hone professional, personal and leadership skills by serving as shelter staff and assisting in advocacy efforts, fundraising, event planning and community service. 

“In all aspects of this project, students are serving students,” said Ashley. 

It’s an inspiring, compelling initiative to emerge at the end of an extraordinarily difficult year. Our students are indeed amazing. And so are the families who raised them. 

For more information about how parent giving makes a difference in students’ lives, contact Cari DuBois-Wright, Associate Director of Development in Parent Giving, at caduboiswright@ucdavis.edu, 510-388-3605. You can visit our Parents Fund website here as well as learn more about our Family Fellows. In addition, Cari can provide the latest information about the Aggie House initiative. 

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