young woman looks at items on shelves

November 08, 2023

SIU’s HEROES program gets $200K grant to help students with essential needs

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s HEROES program assists with almost any basic need that could interfere with a student’s ability to focus and complete their studies. With a $200,000 grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, HEROES can provide additional services and materials to students.

Higher Education Resources and Opportunities for Salukis in Need (HEROES), which was established last year, assists students experiencing difficulties with housing or food insecurity or other financial or resource challenges including access to health care, transportation, child care, clothing, personal care items and/or school necessities.

“The HEROES program has been a dream come true for my team in our attempt to retain our diverse student body of Salukis, using a holistic model of wellness,” said Jaime Clark, director of Student Health Services and HEROES liaison. “Every student needs and deserves stable housing, equitable access to mental and physical health care, and the ability to have their basic needs met in order to succeed in their educational journey.”

Grant will expand support

Clark said SIU will use the IBHE End Student Housing Insecurity Grant to subsidize housing for students with no place to stay during breaks and summer and to cover costs of mental and physical health appointments and child care.

The grant will also be used to buy food, hygiene products, bedding, books, school supplies, cleaning items and clothing, to be given to students who need them. In addition, other items such as laptops, mini-refrigerators, microwaves and air fryers will be purchased and lent as needed.

“We are so proud to expand support services on the SIU campus to provide for the overall well-being of our Salukis and grateful to the IBHE for this grant!” Clark said.

Hundreds helped already

Since the program launched, hundreds of students have benefitted, Clark said. HEROES has a variety of components:

  • The HEROES Headquarters, located on the lower level of the Student Center, incorporates the Saluki Food Pantry and the HEROES store, which provides personal care items, school materials, household items, appliances and linens to students.
  • More than 500 students have received assistance with school supplies, grocery/meal gift cards, personal care items, laptop and small appliances loans, and train/flight tickets to reach family.
  • Housing for students with no place to go during breaks and summer. Thus far, University Housing has assisted 32 students during times when school is not in session.
  • Counseling/mental and physical health appointments. Clark said nearly 550 students have had nearly 2,400 visits paid for by the program already.
  • Peer HEROES student support program, which helps students with mental health conditions through peer educators and mentors who provide education on behavior change strategies, intervention skills and self-care methods.
  • The HEROES Hideaway, which features a multicultural stress management lounge, study space and community area where students can relax, study and recharge. An average of 300 students visits the headquarters each month.
  • Mental health awareness trainings and assistance workshops that staff and students can participate in.
  • Referrals to appropriate community agencies as needed by students for child care, legal aid, and academic and vocational supports.​

Clark said Shelly Ridgeway, director of Wellness and Health Promotions for Student Health Services, and Jacari Henderson, director of Saluki Cares, have also been instrumental in the early success of HEROES.

Statistics indicate an increasing number of college students are experiencing more significant mental health needs and basic needs insecurities, which is why SIU established HEROES, Clark said.

A national survey by HOPE Lab found that 36% of university students experienced food insecurity during the previous 30 days while 16% of university students reported both food and housing insecurity.

For additional information

HEROES Headquarters is open 1-4:30 p.m. Monday and Friday, 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Wednesday when classes are in session; access to the HEROES Store is by appointment only and the requested items form should be submitted. Visit for information on accessing the store, making donations or volunteering.

The Saluki Food Pantry, located on the lower level of the Student Center, is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. It provides students with enough free food to sustain each individual in their household for about three days.

The HEROES website also includes details about numerous other types of assistance and resources, including support with housing, counseling/medical appointments, the Saluki Cares program, transportation during breaks and much more.

Families, peers, faculty and staff can also refer students for help.  

Email with questions.