Homelessness has become an increasingly common challenge for students and the district needs to address it.
Opinion by Isabella Vodos, Staff Writer
Many students struggle to balance an education with the challenges of everyday life. The LACCD should guarantee that the issue of housing is not one of them.
Even though the district provides resources on campus that support students in poverty, the lack of a safe environment comes with additional educational risks. Every person deserves to be provided with shelter to focus on their schooling.
According to the Real College Survey administered by Temple University, nearly half of college students in the United States experience housing insecurity, while 14 percent encounter homelessness firsthand. In addition, California has the most homeless students in the country. While the LACCD supports students who encounter food insecurities through Helping Hands, the administration has not implemented a housing strategy. This predicament makes it difficult for homeless and housing insecure students to continue their education.
“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,” said Gabriel Buelna, LACCD board of trustees president, last month in a press release.
Earlier last month, the board of trustees enacted SB 330, which authorized the district to develop a pilot program to build affordable housing for students. However, the pilot program only offers $1.5 million for homeless students, which is insufficient to support the student population. Over 220 thousand individuals enroll in the district’s nine community colleges.
According to a 2020 California Community Colleges press release, only 14 community colleges have been awarded a three-year annual grant of up to $700,000 by the state legislature to help with homelessness, with only LA Southwest College participating. The district recently created and released a survey to identify community colleges that are most in need. The selection process was based on basic needs and housing insecurity — Valley is now one of them.
Valley and the district must implement a space for students to sleep and rest in order to facilitate safety and academic success.
Some colleges in the state, such as Long Beach City College, have already repurposed parking lots as safe spaces for homeless students. If Valley freed up old buildings completed before the 1970s, the college could assemble a new parking lot for students to rest.
According to a press release, LBCC has built a pilot program providing overnight parking for over 100 unhoused students. The program directs over $1 million of funding.
Long Beach is not the only community college housing success story. According to Ed Source, Cerritos College received the Higher Education Student Housing grant in 2020, which allowed the school to open the state’s first housing project for community college students facing homelessness. As a result, the college now has seven townhomes, six of which are three-bedroom and three-bathroom. With each townhouse nearing 1,500 square feet in total, the village can house up to 28 students.
The district’s current building fund of $3.6 billion does not fulfill projects on all nine LACCD campuses. But with proper approval and a push in the right direction by the board of trustees, Valley’s administration should be able to build new facilities for student housing, creating a new sense of comfort for students who have faced challenges finding a safe place to live.
The outcome of more homeless students is not the district’s intention, but it is one that the LACCD will have to tolerate if they do not act now.
With contributions from Matthew Royer