Photo by Sylvana Uribe/Viking -  A HELPING HAND: Financial Aid specialist Angela Fowlkes helps Sean Manlapaz, 19, a kinesiology major and non-homeless student, as he seeks assistance in the Financial Aid office at the PCC on Tuesday, May 12.
Photo by Sylvana Uribe/Viking –
A HELPING HAND: Financial Aid specialist Angela Fowlkes helps Sean Manlapaz, 19, a kinesiology major and non-homeless student, as he seeks assistance in the Financial Aid office at the PCC on Tuesday, May 12.
School has no formal system in place to address housing insecurity issues.

By Sylvana Uribe / Staff Writer

Homelessness does not have one particular face as it affects people of all ages. Whether spending nights in shelters, cars or on the couches of friends and family, a lack of safety or stability in living conditions categorizes a person as homeless.

While cities have implemented ways to track the number of homeless people, Stacey Toda, LBCC’s associate director of public relations and marketing, said, “LBCC does not collect information on homeless students in order to protect the confidentiality of their living situation.”

According to an article released by The Los Angeles Times on Monday, May 11, homelessness has risen 12 percent since 2013 in the city and county of Los Angeles.

As of January 2015, more than 44,000 homeless people were accounted for across the county by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority. Numbers suggest the prevalence of issues like low wages, high unemployment rates and lack of affordable housing.

Every two years, the Long Beach Health Department gathers similar statistics by conducting a citywide street count of the homeless population.

The 2015 data has not yet been released, but services will be adjusted based on results and permit the city to understand changes in the homeless community.

Janice Coquia, 27, a nursing major, is a student worker with Extended Opportunity Programs and Services and said she has often been approached about services at the college for homeless people and would like to see more resources on campus.

“I know there are a few outside services, but even then you have to be already on the streets. There’s no prevention of that here,” Coquia said.

Anita Gibbins, the director of Student Health Services and Student Life, said, “Services are currently very limited. Essentially, I refer (homeless students) to the Long Beach Multi-Service Center. They house the numerous agencies in Long Beach that provide services. As a college, currently we don’t really have anything except to provide them with referrals.”

Located in the industrial area of West Long Beach, the Multi-Service Center offers basic amenities like showers, transportation, medical care, mental-health services and links homeless people with housing options through referrals to shelters.

Its collaborative partners include organizations that teach financial literacy and work with homeless veterans as well as families at risk of being homeless.

Angela Fowlkes, a financial aid specialist at the PCC, said homelessness is an issue she relates closely to as she experienced homelessness when she was unemployed. After nine years with the college, Fowlkes was laid off in 2009 and relied on her parents to make ends meet as a single mother of five daughters.

Fowlkes was hired in the Financial Aid Department in November 2014, and said she loves her job and helping students. She has encountered students asking for financial assistance who sometimes cannot provide a mailing address. In some cases, students were living in their cars or were at risk of losing their home.

“After a while, you just don’t see them anymore because they are not able to sustain themselves while they go to school,” Fowlkes said. “I actually went home and I was honestly trying to process, ‘How can I help the students?’ Because it’s so many, it’s not like it’s just one or two, it’s so many.”

Fowlkes said it would be helpful to have a center in the college that served as a direct connection to homeless services, rather than send students on a chase for resources.

“They’re here to obtain their educational goals so that would give them sustainability and gainful employment. I think if we could have something like that in place for our students that are homeless, just something to give them hope and move them forward, I think that would be wonderful.”

More information about the Multi-Service Center may be obtained by calling (562) 570-4500.