BY RONNISHA GUNN
There has been an increase in student homelessness since the pandemic started last year.
In May 2020, there were reportedly 195,000 homeless students in California, according to Edsource.org. The pandemic has affected homeless students by causing food pantries to close because of the “stay at home” orders.
Also, the campuses closures affected access to the free WiFi services students depended on.
Student Homeless Action Coali- tion (SHAC) is a supportive group of LACC students who help pro- vide an online map of resources.
The group also offers scholarships. In 2019, they awarded six. In 2020 however, the pandemic affected the number of candidates the club could contact to apply.
SHAC member Beni Salazar has firsthand experience with homelessness. He struggled more after the pandemic began. He says he fell behind in his classes, and his grades suffered.
“For a long time, I didn’t have any water to wash my hands, brush my teeth, or cook with,” he said. “I didn’t have anywhere to get free water, and it’s a pain paying for it and having to go out every day to buy some. I haven’t been able to attend school since last spring because I no longer have somewhere to use internet and charge my devices.”
Salazar says he missed Zoom classes, and he ended up on aca- demic probation twice. He also noticed his mood changed. He says he was irritable and anxious. Daily tasks like catching the bus seemed difficult, and he worried
about catching Covid. A recent study published in the Orange County Register states that 19% of community college students have been homeless in California in the last year. The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University’s College of Education in Philadelphia conducted the study in 2018. They surveyed 40,000 California community college students.
Sara Goldrick-Rab was a lead author of the report. She says managing the reports has been a challenge because students are not open with responses.
“The bottom line is they are not living in a place that is fit for human habitation,” she told the Register. “And many students don’t go to shelters because these are well-educated people who don’t want to be stigmatized.”
Some resources existed for students like Salazar, but a disconnect developed between the unhoused and the support that could make their lives easier. Students no lon- ger had access to restaurants and internet cafes and other places where they could connect to WiFi before the pandemic began. It meant they missed out on schol- arships and other benefits. Like Salazar, many students who struggle to find shelter experienced problems in their classes because they lacked internet access.
Unhoused students can connect to support and learn about opportunities at weekly Zoom meetings every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. They are also free to discuss their experiences and get information on how to overcome obstacles.
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