While earning her associate’s degree at Santa Monica College and working 30 hours a week with her mother cleaning houses, Maritza Lopez didn’t always know where she was going to sleep. When her family was evicted from their apartment, she spent a lot of time hanging out on campus, often crashing on friends’ couches at night.
Photo courtesy of Maritza Lopez
UCLA student Maritza Lopez stayed at the Bruin Shelter when she had no other place to stay.
Her search for a place to sleep reflects a challenge facing a growing number of college students caught between the pincers of rising college costs and steep rents in California’s major metropolitan areas. While Lopez eventually became a resident at Bruin Shelter, a non-profit, student-run organization to help reduce homelessness among college students in Los Angeles, her lack of stable housing took a toll.
“I purposely took a late class from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. That was once a week, so at least Tuesdays I could stay over at my friend’s place,” Lopez said. “Then I just had to figure out Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.”
Lopez said it wasn’t a given that she’d even make it to college. Two of her three older brothers dropped out of high school. Her father’s education was disrupted by civil war in El Salvador and her mom dropped out after finishing the fourth grade in Mexico.
Lopez regained a sense of stability when she found Bruin Shelter.
“I was like, ‘Oh, snap. I have my own bed,’” she said.
Last year, Lopez completed her associate’s degree and successfully transferred to UCLA, where she’s now studying art history and public affairs.
Though no one knows exactly how many college students are homeless, experts believe the problem has worsened as a result of ballooning college costs, inadequate financial aid and growing enrollment among low-income students. As California’s higher education institutions grapple to address the problem, student-led initiatives in Southern California have shown promise.
But experts say that policy reform and changes in financial aid are required to address the unaffordability of higher education.
In a revised budget sent to California lawmakers earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed an increase in spending on helping the homeless, raising the total state investment to $1 billion.
A number of surveys have shown that housing insecurity and homelessness presents a problem for a surprisingly large number of students, as well as for the colleges where they are enrolled. The extent of the problem depends on how the studies define homelessness and housing insecurity and the degree to which the surveys are statistically representative.
For the full article click here: https://edsource.org/2019/southern-california-student-led-initiatives-show-promise-for-colleges-grappling-with-homelessness/613217
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