By Xol Aceytuno, Aug. 31, 2021

Project Mailbox, a proposed program for students without a permanent address to receive mail on campus, is expected to launch its pilot initiative this fall. The program was made possible through a collaboration between Cal Poly Pomona’s California Center for Ethics and Policy and students and faculty.

Project Mailbox will provide participants with a P.O. Box housed in the Bronco Student Health and Wellness Center, allowing students to have a permanent address to note on job applications and official documents. Students will be able to apply for the program through Bronco Cares Basic Needs.

The idea for the project arose from a comment made last semester by Jeffery Mio, a professor in the Psychology Department, at CCEP’s annual seminar focused on California housing.

After having a student experiencing housing insecurity in his class, Mio began to advocate for students facing similar struggles. Mio’s comment during CCEP’s first panel of the series caught the attention of Brady Collins, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and CCEP faculty fellow, as well as Alex Madva, an associate professor in the Philosophy Department and CCEP director. Collins and Madva built a team to ensure Mio’s idea came to fruition.

“We talked to a lot of people on campus who wanted to see this happen, but I think it took our group to bring these different forces together, to be able to zoom out and look at the big picture,” said Collins. “It took us to create this framework for the Bronco Student Health and Wellness Center and the Bronco Cares Basic Needs program to work together and put their resources together. We had to make the case to different folks on campus that this is important and will have a really big impact on an unfortunately large number of students.”

The Project Mailbox team worked throughout spring semester 2021 to finalize its proposal before submitting it in early summer. The team broke up into student-led subcommittees to develop different aspects of the proposal which ultimately laid out both the need for the program and a plan for how this program can be easily implemented through collaboration with different campus entities.

According to a study conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice in 2019, 48% of student respondents reported having experienced housing insecurity and 16% reported experiencing homelessness. Using these numbers, the Project Mailbox team estimated thousands of CPP students have experienced some sort of housing insecurity.

Madva believes housing is a human right and Project Mailbox is a step in that direction.

“Ideally, we could house everybody who needs housing,” said Madva. “Ideally, we could make big structural changes that would reallocate resources so that there would be nobody who would need this service, but we’re not there. In the meantime, this is something on Cal Poly’s end that is really low intensive labor but could potentially be transformative.”

For students who are experiencing housing insecurity, Project Mailbox offers not only a permanent address and a place for students to pick up their mail but also a sense of consistency.

Joshua Prentice, a philosophy and psychology student who worked on the Project Mailbox team, said, “For the people, especially the young people, who don’t have housing, who don’t have a lot of consistency, a lot of dependable things in our lives, having a reliable place where you can go to consistently get your needs met can be not only practical, or useful, but such a comforting thing to have.”

Project Mailbox is not yet open for students to begin applying for a P.O. Box. For more information on Project Mailbox, students can reach out to Bronco Cares Basic Needs.

Feature image by Xol Aceytuno | The Poly Post

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