Sociology Researchers Spotlight Student Homelessness

Just because you may not see them, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.

The homeless student population at the University of Central Florida may not be a much-discussed issue, but it is getting some attention from the UCF Department of Sociology.

Amy Donley, Ph.D., an assistant professor and the associate director for the department, recently conducted a preliminary study on UCF student homelessness along with Chelsea Nordham, the project manager at the Institute for Social and Behavioral Sciences. This study will be featured in an article titled, “Invisible Struggles: Homeless College Students Hide in Plain Sight,” which will be published in the spring 2015 issue of Pegasus magazine.

Donley and Nordham surveyed more than 500 student adults, who were asked to define the term “homelessness” in their own words. The interviewees recorded their responses electronically. What the researchers found was that none of the responses included any shame against homelessness. The most common phrases used to describe the word were “No home,” “No roof,” or “No shelter.”

What Donley and Nordham also found was that 12.2 percent of the students surveyed have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. They also found that 30.4 percent of the students surveyed knew between one and five other students who were homeless while enrolled at UCF, and 6.6 percent of the students surveyed have experienced homelessness themselves while attending UCF.

Donley and Nordham said that this preliminary study is likely to serve as a model for other universities in the country that are working to identify student homelessness on their campuses.

In fall 2015, they will also move forward with their research by conducting in-person interviews with students who have experienced homelessness while attending UCF. Their goal is to better understand the needs of the homeless student population at UCF and to identify ways in which the university can better help them.

If you or someone you know has experience homelessness while attending UCF and would be willing to participate in a confidential in-person interview, email Donley at

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