Homelessness among Canadian university students on the rise: N.B. professor

An ongoing study into poverty and homelessness is now looking at how students are struggling to get by.

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick say they are finding it increasingly common for students to find ways to scrape by. Sleeping in cars, couch surfing, and even crashing at other students’ homes are a trend across Canada, said Eric Weissman, an assistant professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.

Initial findings show that four to five per cent of students in universities are finding themselves in homeless situations. Some 35 per cent say they’d go homeless before they’d quit university.

“The stress is unbelievable,” Weissman said.

“Students are starting courses or semesters and leaving and taking on two or three jobs, and not doing as well as they wanted to. This is very common now.”

He’s been working on this project for the past number of years and said that the cases of mental health among students “blew my mind.”

In an interview with Global News on Friday, Weissman said that 52 per cent of students surveyed had some kind of mental health diagnosis and said that those with mental health matters were higher amongst those who are precariously housed.

International students have become one of the sticking points for Weissman, noting that many of the students aren’t getting what they expected when they arrived in Saint John.

“A lot of times, international students will come here and find out that the housing they expected doesn’t exist or that the rents have gone up,” he said.

“There are no rent controls, really.”

International student housing has been on the radar of the New Brunswick Student Alliance, which said that it’s been hearing of domestic and international students having to take apartments with poor ventilation, mould and basements without windows due to the lack of supply.

“International students are even more vulnerable as they have limited options and resources, time frames and choices in terms of housing right now,” said Sydona Chandon, executive director of the Alliance.

She said the Alliance is planning on working with the province to work on a solution to find affordable housing for students.

Chandon told Global News that if the group can come up with a strategy in the next two to three months, she will be optimistic about the future.

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