Solving the Crisis of Community College Student Homelessness


What It's Like To Be A Homeless College Student


A Crisis On Campus

1 in 5 community college students in Los Angeles is experiencing homelessness. Community colleges have no housing support for their students. It’s a sad but simple fact: students do not graduate when they are homeless. In fact, only 2-11% of former foster youth who enroll in LA’s community colleges are able to graduate or transfer, and homelessness is a major barrier.

Picture them: students sleeping in cars or couch surfing, stressed out and studying on an empty stomach, showering in the school gym, prioritizing education over their basic needs, all in hope of a better future.

As our agency grew through permanent housing, we wanted to inspire our youth to go back to school and embark on career pathways. We approached our local community colleges with the goal of taking more youth onto campus for tours, but we were stunned when the school counselors started asking us if we could house their students. When we learned of the scope of this problem- literally hundreds of homeless youth on every campus, we knew we had to do something. That’s why we created The College Success Initiative to create homes for homeless students.

These students are investing in their future through education. Homelessness should never prevent a student from succeeding in school.

Our Peer Navigators work out of East LA College, Rio Hondo College, and Cerritos College to meet homeless students on campus and connect them with the housing support that fits their needs.

The College Success Initiative

At Jovenes, we believe our young people deserve the chance to achieve their dreams despite homelessness. That is why we are working with community colleges throughout LA County to provide housing support to homeless students through rental subsidies. We’re focusing in on the colleges within our core service area, especially East LA College, Rio Hondo College, Cerritos College, and LA Trade Tech. We’ve placed Peer Navigators (formerly homeless community college students) on campus in order to provide outreach to homeless students, assess them for their housing needs through LA’s Coordinated Entry System, and help move them into housing by providing a rental subsidy that helps them afford apartments near their school.

It’s a simple solution to help homeless students- one that is scalable and replicable as we receive more support. Most importantly, it’s working! Over 80% of our students have persisted in school, and we’ve already celebrated numerous graduations and transfers

How It Works

Students do not graduate when they are homeless. It’s hard to do your homework when you don’t have a home. Housing is expensive in LA, but that’s not a good reason to keep the status quo where students sacrifice their basic needs to fulfill their educational goal.

Our program works to meet students on campus and provide them with rental subsidies that help them move into apartments (or other stable housing opportunities) near their campus.

College Focused Housing Options
Jovenes has developed college-focused housing options in order to take away the burden of housing costs so that homeless students are able to focus on academic achievement:

  • Bridge Housing: Jovenes is master-leasing apartments near our local community college campuses to provide temporary safe housing that will allow students to become stable while they work with our case managers to connect with permanent housing options within our Continuum of Care.
  • Rapid Rehousing/Rental Subsidies: Typically, rapid rehousing is a rental subsidy designed to be a time-limited intervention that moves youth into permanent housing and provides them with the time it takes to gain employment, begin saving, and gradually take on the full cost of the lease. For college students, Jovenes modified this intervention by extending the duration of rental assistance to match a student’s time in school.
  • Host Homes: Jovenes is outreaching to local homeowners who have a spare bedroom in their houses and who are willing to welcome a student into their home. Under this arrangement, the student will stay in these houses for six months or less, while a more suitable long-term solution can be developed. Hosts and students will undergo a matching process to determine fit, and both will be supported by Jovenes Staff.

Students in this Program Will Achieve:

  • AA Degree
  • Professional Certification
  • Transfer to a four year college
  • Increased lifetime earnings
  • Meaningful relationships with Jovenes staff for continued support for years to come

Jovenes is so proud of all of our students and grateful for their resiliency, perseverance and courage in sharing their stories. We are excited to continue to support them on their journey and look forward to celebrating all of their accomplishments. 

Student Success!

Rethinking Scholarship

We’ve learned that it’s not the cost of books and tuition that hit community college students the hardest. It’s the cost of everything else, especially rent! Students are forced to choose between going to school and going to work, between trying to make ends meet and make it through class.

That’s why paying for student’s rent makes such a difference. Jovenes is redefining what a scholarship can look like, and with our funders ,like the Candis & Peter Doerken Foundation, we are finding innovative ways to connect private philanthropy with our students to help them succeed.

Kyshawna’s Story

I was placed into the foster system when I lost both of my parents. At the age of 19, I was told by my grandma that I had to leave because she stopped receiving checks. I had nowhere to go so began couch surfing. I work as a public speaker and was able to save money to buy a car. I lived out of my car for five months until my uncle allowed me to stay with him. When the landlord kicked me out, I was forced to once again live out of my car.

At this time, I was going to school at Citrus College while working in order to make ends meet and survive. The instability in my life caused me to start failing all of my classes. My counselor recognized I was struggling and referred me to Jovenes’ College Success Initiative. Once I found Jovenes, I was enrolled into the program and they helped me find permanent housing. Having their support and housing stability helped me raise my grades and I am now making all A’s. It brings peace to me that I have someone supporting me and helping me out not only financially, but emotionally. Without the College Success Initiative, I would not be where I am at and would not be moving towards my goals because homelessness, while it made me strong and resilient, was holding me back and took a toll on my mental health.  Jovenes did not just help me with housing, but this program has really helped me remain accountable & responsible so I can achieve my goals. They treat me like family and have helped me achieve my greatest accomplishment thus far in my life, overcoming homelessness.

Video by Afflux Films

Partners & Funders

We’d like to thank the partners and funders who are helping Jovenes support homeless students

  • The California Wellness Foundation
  • The Carl & Roberta Deutsch Foundation
  • The Roth Family Foundation
  • The Reissa Foundation 
  • The Hearst Foundation
  • The Hezlep Family Foundation
  • The Peter & Candis Doerken Foundation
  • John Burton Associates for Youth
  • Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab

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