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100 homeless L.A. community college students to get shelter, food and Wi-Fi

The Los Angeles Community College District will fund a $1.5-million pilot program to provide housing for more than 100 students who are homeless or housing insecure.

As the pandemic continues to exacerbate students’ basic food and housing needs, many have prioritized jobs over education, prompting the Board of Trustees to vote last week to green light the yearlong housing program for students in the nation’s largest community college district. State funds earmarked for student needs will pay for the initiative.

“In many ways, our students’ experiences are a microcosm of the challenges faced by millions of Californians, and that includes the issues of housing and homelessness,” Board President Gabriel Buelna said in a statement. “Too many of our students are housing insecure and have had their studies heavily impacted by the lack of a safe and quiet place to sleep and study.”

Five local nonprofit organizations will provide housing, including the Jovenes Inc., which previously worked with Long Beach City College to help homeless students. Other partners include Los Angeles Room and Board, Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services, Seed House Project and the Shower of Hope.

In addition to housing, students who participate will be provided food, Wi-Fi and mental health support if needed. Some will have access to academic tutoring, academic and financial counseling, technology and employment assistance.

“No student should be forced to choose between keeping a roof over their head and pursuing an education,” LACCD Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez said in a statement.

California’s undergraduate enrollment has dropped significantly during the pandemic, driven largely by a decline at community colleges, which saw a drop of 20% during the pandemic to roughly 1.3 million students from fall 2019 to fall 2021.

The latest LACCD data show a 13% drop in head count from spring 2021 to spring 2022. According to the district, 68% of its 250,000 students come from low-income families and 53% live below or at the poverty line.

The drop is due to a variety of factors but has largely been attributed to a prioritization of work and salary over school during the pandemic. A 2020 report from UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools found that homelessness among elementary students as well as the state’s public universities and community colleges rose 50% over the last decade, driven largely by the pandemic.

The study found that 1 in 5 community college students was experiencing homelessness, which includes people who are sharing housing because of a loss of housing or economic hardship, those who live in motels, hotels, cars, parks and other similar settings.

“Applications are being accepted now, and space is available until filled,” LACCD spokesperson William Boyer said. “Each provider will review the applications they receive and make determinations on eligibility/acceptance,” adding that eligibility varies per provider.

The program runs until April 2023.



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