Assisting Students with Basic Needs

Students are facing higher education costs, while grants and loans shrink. Some are food and housing insecure, homeless or one emergency away from dropping out. This affects their attendance, GPA, and overall sense of well-being.

Faculty and staff have a significant role to play in identifying students at risk for food and housing insecurity and providing referrals to resources.

One in three college students experience food insecurity. 

Our students at OHIO are not immune to this issue, but there are resources available to help.

Recognizing Students in Need

Multiple factors may indicate that a student is experiencing homelessness or housing and food insecurity. Some students may be embarrassed or feel shame about their situation, so the extent of the situation might not be immediately clear. 

Faculty and staff who understand warning signs and services offered will be more equipped to recognize and refer the student.

Verbal Cues

Not all students who experience these signs are housing or food insecure, as the signs may be due to other concerns, but these signs can often be indicators of a basic needs issue.  

When a student talks about food, housing, finances and sleep:

  • Listen for statements about a lack of or barriers to food, housing, finances, mental health or sleep
  • Listen for vague language or downplaying of their situation
  • Take statements about basic needs seriously, even if they seem casual and even if a student feels or acts normal about their situation

If you hear a student talk about a basic needs situation, follow up with them to check in and talk about resources available to them.

Warning Signs

Signs that can often be indicators of a basic needs issue:

  • Inconsistent or decrease in classroom attendance
  • Disconnected within the classroom
  • Sleeping in campus libraries  
  • Consistently failing to complete assignments
  • Avoidance of personal details
  • Sleep deprivation or falling asleep in class
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Reporting not doing the work because they haven't purchased the textbook
  • Increased level of distress  
  • Hopelessness
  • Disrupted eating patterns
  • Poor health and diet  
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Wearing the same clothes continually without them being cleaned
  • Student discloses that they have been sleeping in their car, couch surfing, do not have anywhere to stay over the break period, have not been eating, do not have enough money to pay for food or bills, etc.  

How You Can Help


Issues of food and housing insecurity and homelessness can come with a significant deal of stigma. If someone does disclose that they are facing these challenges you have several options to offer support. 

You can refer them directly to the Dean of Students office, complete one of the online nomination forms for emergency grants or housing insecurity, or suggest one of the resources on this page.

We encourage you also to contact the Dean of Students office to share these concerns.  

Referral Steps

  1. Thank them for sharing with you 
    • “I’m really glad you told me what’s going on with you.”
    • “I’m sure it was hard to share that struggle with me. Thank you for trusting me.”
  2. Acknowledge the challenge they are facing 
    • “I can’t imagine how hard it is to focus in class when you are hungry.” 
    • “Not having stable housing is very stressful.”
  3. Discuss options for support
    • “Did you know we have a food pantry in Baker University Center, open to any student? It’s a resource here for students who might need it.”
    •  “The Office of the Dean of Students may be able to help with an Emergency Microgrant.”
  4. Follow-up to see if they accessed the resource or need more help
    • “Were you able to connect with the Dean of Students office?”
    • “Has your situation improved?”

Faculty Syllabus Statement

It’s not always easy to know which students might be struggling with housing or food insecurity, to be proactive about these issues, consider adding a Basic Needs syllabus statement:

Basic Needs: Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day or who lacks a safe and stable place to live and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact the Dean of Students Office for support by emailing The Food Pantry is located on the 5th floor of Baker Center and is open to all students. 

OHIO's Basic Needs Programs


    Student Emergency Fund

    Designed to help OHIO students by providing financial support when they need assistance with unexpected, unforeseen, and unavoidable emergency short-term expenses.


    Cats' Cupboard

    OHIO's on-campus food pantry provides students, staff and faculty access to fresh, frozen and shelf-stable food options to help with hunger.


    Meal Bank

    Allows students to share meal swipes from their campus meal plan with fellow students experiencing hunger.


    Cap and Gown Loan Program

    A select number of caps and gowns will be available for loan to students who face a financial barrier to purchase their own. 


    Housing Help

    Housing assistance for students who find themselves housing insecure or in situations where they are at risk for homelessness.


    Career Closet

    Provides students with business professional and business casual clothes for interviews, career fairs, formal events or any career-related function, both on and off campus.

Ohio University Resources

OfficeContact InformationServices Provided
Dean of Students Office345 Baker University Center 
can connect students experiencing housing or food insecurity to Ohio University and Athens community resources
Cats' Cupboard514 Baker University Center 
provides access to fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable food to students experiencing food insecurity or hunger
Housing and Residence Life111 South Green Drive 
can connect students to on-campus resources and assist with finding on-campus housing accommodations for enrolled students
Counseling and Psychological ServicesHudson Health Center, 3rd Floor 
provides professional and confidential counseling to students in a variety of formats to fit their needs
Student Legal Services50 South Court Street, Suite D, Athens OH 
provides Ohio University students with a wide range of legal services

Printable Guide

View or download this guide in PDF form:

Guide to Assisting Students with Basic Needs [PDF]