BYLINE: Stephanie Metzinger

Newswise — Between California’s chronic housing shortage and tremendously high housing costs, the number of residents who are experiencing homelessness is climbing. Californian’s struggle to find housing has trickled down to higher education institutions statewide – and it has even reached some California State University (CSU) students.

The CSU and its dedicated employees are working to find a solution. They are doubling down on efforts to ensure that students have a safe, stable and affordable place to live while pursuing a college degree. Dilcie Perez, who was brought on as CSU Associate Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs, Equity and Belonging earlier this year, has made addressing housing insecurity among her first priorities.

Perez and the Academic and Student Affairs team understand that the high cost of housing in California presents a complex challenge for students. They are taking steps to safeguard students with access to high-quality and affordable housing, as “Student Engagement and Well-Being” is one of the six key operational priorities of Graduation Initiative 2025. With housing falling under the area of “Student Engagement and Well-Being,” Perez is working collectively with campuses to provide financial support to students for housing, reduce homelessness among the CSU community and address the immediate basic needs crises.

Beyond the CSU, Perez is also working to change the narrative about homelessness and affordable housing throughout the state. Perez recently joined the Shape the Narrative Task Force, a multi-sector coalition dedicated to ending homelessness in California. The Shape the Narrative Initiative—which is led by Housing California in partnership with Kaiser Permanente and TheCaseMade—aims to create homes, health and economic security for all citizens of California.

“Having spent more than a decade advocating for affordable housing, I am thrilled to use my experience to collaborate with some of the greatest minds throughout California to help end homelessness and create affordable homes for all,” said Perez. “I look forward to working with this all-star team to shape the narrative around homelessness, build power and change policy, and end housing insecurity for students and residents alike.”

The Shape the Narrative Task Force held its first meeting late last month in Sacramento, Calif., to share ideas on how to change the current narrative about homelessness into one that engages people and helps them to make sense of a complex housing system.

During the initial meeting, Perez along with more than 40 affordable housing advocates achieved the following:

  • identified the time-sensitive opportunities to shift the narrative around health and housing;
  • addressed impediments to action in the effort to shift the narrative and build more public support statewide; and
  • shared perspectives that will allow for strengthened partnerships among health, housing and diverse sectors across California.

“We are excited to add Dilcie to our cadre of storytellers who will shape the narrative around homelessness and affordable housing,” said Unai Montes-Irueste, narrative and strategic communications director at Housing California. “Dilcie’s dedication to the cause will be key in helping build public awareness as well as inspire people to act and push for meaningful change.”

In addition to helping identify strategies to build awareness around housing insecurity, Perez will receive training and resources to support people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Perez’s continued work on the task force will also provide her with new insight and tools on how to further advance housing priorities that most benefit CSU students.