Education

Cal Poly gets $150,000 donation to help fight student homelessness

Cal Poly is moving forward with a fee program that aims to attract more diverse, low-income students to its campus in San Luis Obispo, California.
Cal Poly is moving forward with a fee program that aims to attract more diverse, low-income students to its campus in San Luis Obispo, California. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Cal Poly has received a $150,000 donation aimed to help students struggling with homelessness and housing stability, according to a school news release Tuesday.

The Tanklage Family Initiative to End Homelessness at Cal Poly Fund was created in honor of late architectural engineering alumnus Donald Tanklage, who graduated from Cal Poly in 1957.

The gift comes at an important time for the university.

A comprehensive California State University study release in February showed that 41.6 percent of students are food insecure, and 10.9 percent experienced homelessness one or more times in the 12 months prior to when the survey was conducted.

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The Cal Poly Food Pantry provides fresh and canned food for students who need help meeting basic needs. Since it opened in 2014, usage of the pantry has risen 600 percent.

Of the Cal Poly students surveyed, 26.9 percent reported food insecurity, and 12.3 percent reported being homeless.

"Housing affordability is a regional issue that impacts everyone, especially students who struggle to meet basic living needs," Cal Poly dean of students Kathleen McMahon said in the news release. "I cannot thank the Tanklage family enough for supporting our students."

The multi-year donation will be administered through the Cal Poly Cares program, which is funded by private donors and provides emergency grants for eligible students unable to afford expenses, including housing, that are central to their academic success and well-being.

Since its inception in 2015, the Cal Poly Cares program has provided more than $800,000 in emergency grants to 539 students, including $213,000 for housing and meals.

In March, Cal Poly also received a $130,000 grant from the CSU system — part of $2.5 million distributed across the system's 23 campuses — aimed to develop, enhance and integrate basic needs resources into the fabric of the campus' culture.

The Tanklage family began supporting Cal Poly students in 2006, when they established the Donald Tanklage Scholarship for construction management and architecture students in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

Through that experience, the Tanklages learned about Cal Poly students dealing with homelessness, and decided to take action.

"I'm beyond grateful to the Tanklage family for partnering with student affairs to take on the challenge of erasing student homelessness," said Keith Humphrey, vice president for student affairs. "Because of their generosity and care for others, Cal Poly will be able to help struggling students obtain housing and keep them focused on their academics."

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