With statistics released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority indicating more than 44,000 people are out in the streets, it is worrisome that the number is expected to rise.
Common stigmas of the homeless conjure images of people wearing tattered clothing in makeshift tents or pushing carts. Less often do we consider the student traveling back and forth between the homes of friends or family, or whose life is packed into the backseat of their car. Neither can we exclude students standing in long lines for a night in a shelter or the children sitting alongside other homeless families at dinner services provided by shelters.
Awareness of homelessness is gaining momentum with celebrities like Cyndi Lauper and Miley Cyrus creating organizations to help LGBT homeless youth, who according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, account for 40 percent of people served by homeless agencies. On May 5, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia spoke with President Obama in Washington, D.C. about the city’s commitment to ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
LBCC has no service specializing in aiding homeless students. All the college can do is refer students to the Long Beach Multi-Service Center, which can turn into a daunting maze of knocking on doors if motivation is lost.
Once at the center, visitors must prove their disadvantaged circumstance and experience another cycle of referrals for shelters and resources throughout the city.
LBCC has been an innovative leader in the community, particularly in areas surrounding the PCC where many come from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Through its accessibility and affordability, the college’s programs opens doors.
From students in the ESL program hoping to master the language as key to their advancement, to students learning a trade to jump-start their career, or high school students entering through Promise Pathways, the resources available help them follow through with their educational goals. However, LBCC has nothing to prevent homeless students from slipping through the system as they strive to succeed and the lack of resources has been noted by employees and students.
It would be useful if an on-campus center was created for helping homeless students and those on the brink of homelessness. Rather than sending students away to seek the services, the center could be the direct link for students and resources scattered throughout the city.
Providing a safe space for students to feel comfortable enough to ask for help could reduce the amount of time they struggle due to their circumstances and give them increased control of their lives.
Although the services are not available at the college, that should not serve as an excuse to sit idly. Food and clothing donations are welcomed in various organizations around the city. In shelters like the Long Beach Rescue Mission, daily operations depend heavily on volunteers to serve meals and fill backpacks with back-to-school items for homeless children.
Whether it is time or tangible goods, our donations have a direct impact and bring us closer to lowering the number of people without a home.