Skip to main content
Best Bets

Make Yourself at Home

Program helps homeless students with compassion and innovation.

Donna Bailey on the front porch or her Raleigh home.
Donna Bailey ’03, on the front porch of her Raleigh home, has helped international students who needed housing.

By Susanna Klingenberg

Mary Haskett, a professor of psychology, will never forget the day in 2017 she discovered a student on her research team was living in his car. The realization opened her eyes to a pervasive problem on college campuses: housing insecurity. “I remember calling around campus, thinking surely there’s got to be someone who’s equipped to help this student,” says Haskett. “But I kept getting dead ends.”

Her frustration led her to survey students and make a staggering discovery: 10% of NC State students had experienced homelessness in the past year. That number rose to 14% in 2023. Haskett pulled together a team of housing security experts and NC State faculty, staff and students to research solutions. That collaboration resulted in HOST (Housing Options for Students Today), a nonprofit that matches students who need short-term housing with volunteer hosts. It’s the first program of its kind specifically for college students in the U.S.

The HOST model is simple and flexible. Volunteer hosts provide a safe, private space in their home. If a home stay isn’t the best fit, the program offers options including rental assistance, temporary hotel housing or connection to community resources. Since its inception in 2022, HOST has secured housing for 39 students with a mix of host houses and financial assistance.

“Students can be making ends meet, excelling academically, doing everything right,” says Libby Stephens, HOST’s program coordinator. “But it only takes one crisis — a car breaking down or a medical emergency — and things can so quickly unravel.”

Volunteer hosts are vetted and receive ongoing support, as well as training in areas like boundary-setting and conflict mediation. Donna Bailey ’03 of Raleigh served as a volunteer host for an international student navigating life in the U.S. “I’ve lived overseas, and it was enormously helpful when people were warm and open,” says Bailey. “This was my chance to give back.”

“I’ve lived overseas, and it was enormously helpful when people were warm and open.”
—Donna Bailey ’03

The program has served as a model for new host housing programs across the country. Haskett and her team recently expanded the program beyond NC State to help any college or graduate student in Wake County.  “In the future, we’d like to do more work on advocacy and policy,” says Haskett. “We’d like to put ourselves out of a job.”

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.