Homelessness is widespread throughout Monroe County and that includes students at East Stroudsburg University.

The problem was recently brought to the school’s attention and officials immediately jumped into action to help students get a place to stay.

Winter Break is in session at East Stroudsburg University. But not all students got to go home to celebrate the holidays. Staff recently discovered some were living out of their vehicles on campus.

Residential and Dining Services Director Curtis Dugar, "We have a program, the Men of Color Alliance and as one of the advisors of the group, we get the chance to have very candid conversations, and part of those conversations brought to our attention that there are certain students who are navigating homelessness."

Officials immediately devised a pilot program to help students who don’t have the means to pay extra to stay in the residential halls, suites and apartments when the school closes. It’s called "Housing/Work Exchange Program." Six guys and one girl are currently enrolled.

ESU Junior Ena Bolling says, "There’s a lot of students that kind of have to do it themselves, they definitely have to fend for themselves in some ways so it’s kind of expected. I’m just surprised to hear that it’s big here."

The seven were able to stay where they lived in the fall or temporary space was provided during the break.

Dugar says, "It’s a retention effort for us, you know, we wanted to make sure that they stay with us academically and part of that is a commitment to their personal growth and development and well-being."

Those students will be required to work four hours for each day that they stay. We’re told that time can be completed throughout the semester and they’ll be doing things like managing a study hall and helping with recycling initiatives. 

ESU Senior Brandon Teel says, "It’s good because at ESU we always talk about how diverse we are so we are really starting to focus on inclusion so we’re trying to find ways to make sure everybody feels at home."

The college believes more students will be using the program in the future with the growing financial challenges. If anyone enrolled at ESU is in need of a place to stay, you’re asked to reach out to Residential and Dining Services and they will help you.