PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Homelessness among college students goes under the radar. It comes in many forms — living in cars, shelters, or couch surfing. However, most full-time college students aren’t eligible for traditional affordable housing programs, like Section 8 and LIHTC housing.

So, what started out as a pilot program in Portland in 2020 is now looking to further prevent homelessness among students so they can succeed.

“It will help alleviate some problems along the way, so I don’t have to go into debt to pay rent,” Javier Gomez, a Portland Community College sophomore said.

Gomez is a first-generation college student. He came from El Salvador to further his education in communications and journalism.

“I’ve lived with my grandparents since I came here,” he said.

With rent rising in Portland, Gomez’s aging grandparents needed to downsize — and he needed a safe place to go.

Luckily, Gomez landed at The Amy apartments in Southwest Portland, where the Affordable Rents for College Students program is subsidizing his monthly payments, cutting costs in half.

“I didn’t have to deposit my first and last month of rent,” he said. “I didn’t have to pay an application fee.”

By removing barriers, the referral-based program is providing homeless or housing-insecure students with stable, affordable housing to help them succeed in college.

“A college degree or a certificate gets people further down the road to having a living wage job,” Pam Blumenthal, director of ARCS, said. “And if you have a living wage job, you’re going to have a higher income, pay more taxes, need less services, have better healthcare and health outcomes.”

This kind of better life will be a reality for Portland State University student Memory Condren, who is paying out of pocket for her education.

After losing roommates at the start of the pandemic, she and her partner nearly found themselves without an affordable place to live.

“We panicked,” Condren said.

She’s relieved to have been accepted into the ARCS program in 2020.

“There’s a group of people, no matter how privileged they may seem, that work really hard to pay for school and to pay for rent,” Condren said. “Our home is not where we want to be. That’s not where we see ourselves growing, so its important to have our own place to find that growth, and that safety would be amazing. But not everybody has that opportunity, and ARCS makes that possible.”

As these organizations are helping pay the way for these students in need now, the students plan to pay it forward in the future.

“I think it’s worth it to invest in students and it’s worth it to invest in people,” Gomez said. “So we can contribute by returning the favor later on, and that’s my plan.”

The ARCS program, along with its primary partner College Housing Northwest, has grown from subsidizing rent for 20 students to now 55 — but that doesn’t touch the need. Currently, they have 7 students on their waiting list who are either in shelters or homeless.

The ARCS program is seeking to secure state funding and one day hopes to subsidize 20% of the 600 available apartments for students.

Here is where you donate directly to the ARCS program.