For more than three years, Depaul USA's Dax program has worked to provide housing-insecure DePaul University students with a place to call home. In September 2017, the program officially opened the first Dax House in the city's Pilsen neighborhood. Following the success of the Pilsen house, the program hopes to open a second Chicago-based house in late spring.
"In the short amount of time we've provided a home for these students, we've already seen huge improvement," says Abe Morris, director of the Dax program. "Students who earned C's and D's in previous quarters are now earning A's and B's. Simply because they have their own space to study, relax, read and sleep."
Each of the four students currently living in the Dax House has a set of keys and pays rent - just as they would in a regular apartment. Students can study, cook and hang out in a home designated specifically for them. They even can interact with Morris, who also lives at the house as a resource for the residents.
"Our goal is to make the house more than just a shelter, which don't often feel warm and welcoming," Morris says. "Personal space - a place that is truly our own - is something a lot of us take for granted, but makes a huge difference in our day-to-day lives."
Based on FAFSA reports, DePaul estimates approximately 50 of its currently enrolled students are housing-insecure. Because the Dax House in Pilsen can only take in five students, Morris and Sister Judy Warmbold, D.C., coordinator of the Dax program, are working to establish a second house on Chicago's southwest side to accommodate more students in need.
Beyond their efforts in Chicago, Morris and Sister Judy are working with the University of Texas - El Paso to establish a similar program on the university's campus. Eventually, they hope institutions across the country will develop programs to aid their own housing-insecure students.
"There really is no reason for nearly 58,000 college students across the country to be housing-insecure," Morris says. "DePaul University is a good model for how institutions can step in and work to solve this problem. We want to see it go nationwide."
After a series of meeting in October 2014, Depaul USA, a unit of Depaul International and a part of the Vincentian Family in Chicago, wanted to develop a way to assist students who face homelessness. Named after the town in France where St. Vincent de Paul attended school and actually lived with a host family, the Dax program collaborates with DePaul University to connect these students with places that can offer them more than just shelter, but a place to call home.