San Diego State University art student Derek Patterson had been struggling financially even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to Wesley House and the generosity the nonprofit has received from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund and other donors, he’s been able to keep a roof over his head as he works toward a degree in graphic design.

“The persistent outreach of the Wesley House staff led me to admit my hardships,” shared Patterson. “The amount of support and resources provided have humbled me immeasurably and encouraged me to work on my reluctance to ask for help.”

A recent national survey of nearly 167,000 students from 171 two-year colleges and 56 four-year institutions found that 46 percent of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year and 17 percent were homeless. Wesley House – an affordable, below-market rate housing complex steps from San Diego State University serving low-income and systemically marginalized college students – has been addressing the crisis for a generation. Student residents must be considered extremely low income and attend a college or university full time to qualify for Wesley House’s affordable housing program, which rents its apartments for a fraction of market-rate costs. A Second Start Program provides a year of rent-free housing to former foster youth who are experiencing homelessness.

Eighty percent of Wesley House residents are first generation college students. Seventy percent are from a community of color. Which is why Wesley House is more than a housing program.

During the pandemic, the nonprofit has helped students in need pay for food, car repairs, utilities, and other living expenses during the pandemic, an effort supported in part by a $20,000 grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

“Wesley House is amazing when it comes to providing educational opportunities to everyone,” said Jamarius, a military veteran, SDSU psychology student and Wesley House resident. “They make it clear from the first day you meet them that you’re officially a part of a family. Whether it be from finding different places to hire you for a job or even helping set up seminars about something simple as financial aid, Wesley House is on top of it. They provide us with a food pantry for when we want to save money. I just really recognize the genuine feeling of Wesley House wanting to be there for you and help you be a better version of yourself.”

Ria Diddee, a former student resident who recently graduated, agreed. “Wesley House is more than a living situation. It’s a community.”

The Wesley House is a community that has been yielding strong dividends. One former student was accepted to medical school and is now working with Doctors Without Borders distributing COVID-19 vaccines in the cross-border area.

As you can expect, demand has become even more profound during the pandemic, with 80 percent of Wesley House student residents having lost their job.

“Wesley House has literally been life saving for some of our student residents, but they are still in need of assistance,” said Development Director Nicole Celeste Marquel. “It is a dire situation.”

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to grow, the needs of Wesley House students, low-income families and a host of other San Diegans do as well.

Learn more about how you can help those in need through the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.