Belk Housing/Homelessness Q3
One under-reported aspect is the number of homeless young people who are attending college in our region – at community colleges and Cal State campuses, even the UCs. It’s remarkable to imagine how they balance classroom assignments on top of the burdens that come with living without steady housing. Having to arrive on campus early to use a gym shower; hoping to make a connection with someone who may let them sleep in an office instead of a car.
Yet we need them to succeed in higher education if our region is to thrive. We need educated, trained or certified young people for the jobs that drive our economic growth and provide the services we all depend on. Like health care.
Fortunately, there are successful model programs that are helping young people maintain housing and stay in school. Some are designed especially for young people who have spent time in foster care. Think about it. Without access to year-round housing, if you’ve been emancipated from the foster care system, where would you turn when the dorms close for breaks? At UC Riverside’s Office of Foster Youth Support Services, help with housing is just part of the assistance that’s offered to help these young people thrive on campus.
Los Angeles-based Jovenes, through its College Success Initiative, offers a case-managed supportive housing program for homeless and foster youth enrolled at community colleges in East and South Los Angeles.
The California Wellness Foundation proudly supports the Office of Foster Youth Support Services, Jovenes and others. But private sector contributions from the philanthropic or corporate sectors aren’t enough. Our resources alone will never be able to meet the need.
The public sector needs to step up. We will all benefit from the contributions these young people will make to our region. I’ve met them. They are motivated. They want to create change and to contribute to the health and wellness of their communities. We all should be investing in their future – because ours depends on it.