Stella Zhu, Basic Needs Coordinator, began working at Fort Lewis College in April and she oversees the Grub Hub, an organization that offers free food, housing assistance, financial assistance and other resources, on campus.
Zhu said she earned both her Sociology and Molecular and Cell Biology degree at the University of California, Berkeley.
While attending Berkeley Zhu said she worked at a food pantry, food bank, basic needs committee and conducted research on anxiety at the National Institute of Health in Washington D.C.
She said the Grub Hub wants to dismantle any stigma surrounding basic need insecurity and foster food security, housing security and financial justice for students.
“We know without access to a lot of those basic necessities it’s very hard to be a student, a person and just thrive,” Zhu said, “Going to college is the hardest time of your life for a lot of people. It’s your first time away from home, from family, learning how to survive on your own and it’s really hard to balance all those things, especially in our economy right now.”
Zhu said the Grub Hub’s rapid re-housing program is a partnered effort with Manna Soup Kitchen that helps students with emergency shelter, rental assistance and case management to support students along their financial journey.
Zhu said she examines each student’s rental assistance case then refers them to Manna where funds are dispersed to avoid any impacts towards a student’s financial aid package.
“I was a college student once struggling, working three jobs and trying to balance school, internships, even a social life,” Zhu said.
Zhu said of the 20 housing cases they received, nine have closed which means students no longer require assistance or guidance.
Zhu said they created student-specific funds that only require students to create financial goals with Zhu and to maintain an academic performance.
She said there is $15,000 dedicated to hotel funds, $35,000 from the school to assist with rental assistance and $5,000 is in discretionary funds.
Zhu said she knew she wanted to work with college students because it’s a vulnerable population that most people don’t talk about.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, 562 adults between the ages of 18 and 24 experienced homelessness out of 9,846 in CO.
Zhu said the Grub Hub received a $25,000 grant to purchase more culturally relevant food and they are looking for feedback on what ideas to consider for future purchases.
“We don’t want to reproduce a lot of the narratives that the larger society has thinking it’s just handouts or whatever but thinking about how we can support people holistically as humans because they’re not just coming here to be students,” Zhu said.