Ospreys without a home: UNF works with homeless students

Pierce Turner

Michael Kennedy, assistant dean of students, works with homeless students at UNF. Photo by Pierce Turner.

Homeless students are a small population at UNF, but an important one. They have to balance all of their classes and responsibilities like the rest of us, in addition to figuring out a place to stay every night. They aren’t without help, however.

Assistant Dean of Students Michael Kennedy helps homeless students get the guidance and assistance they need to be successful in college and even find a home.

“We’re here as an ally to walk alongside the student and to support them in any way we can because they’re already facing enough hurdles without other ones being thrown at them,” said Kennedy.

The process is similar to that of any student trying to figure out financial aid. Homeless students have to work closely with a guidance counselor and with financial aid to get the tuition waivers they need to be successful. There are certain qualifications for a student to even be officially homeless.

The student must be a registered resident at a homeless shelter and qualify for independent status to get all the financial aid they need, which usually goes towards on-campus housing.

“The focus is to eliminate the financial burden for the students so they can focus on their school work,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy said the number of homeless students is “a small handful but it’s a population that we pay close attention to” with an average of six to eight a year. He also said homeless and foster care students usually perform equally well or better than the average student.

“They are connected with services that other students might take for granted,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy is looking into partnering with Florida universities that are successful in helping homeless students like FSU and Miami Dade.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a permanent living situation at UNF, Kennedy asks you visit the office of the dean of students or call (904)-620-1491.

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