One in Five Los Angeles Community College Students is Homeless

BY HANK REICHMAN

A fifth of the Los Angeles Community College District’s 230,000 students are homeless, and nearly two-thirds can’t afford to eat properly, according to a new survey commissioned by the system’s board of trustees and reported yesterday in the Los Angeles Times:

Nearly half the L.A. community college students surveyed reported struggling with high housing costs. Of the 19% who said they were recently homeless, 8% reported being thrown out of their homes, 4% said they had been evicted, and 6% had stayed in an abandoned building, car or other location not meant for housing, the survey said.

Although college students nationwide face financial constraints that affect their nutrition, according to the study, those enrolled at the L.A. district’s nine campuses fare worse than the national average. About 65% can’t afford balanced meals, and 60% are unable to buy more when their food runs out, the study said.

“This is not about eating Top Ramen,” district board of trustees President Scott Svonkin said at a news conference Thursday at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

Standing before a bank of TV cameras, Trade Tech student Myriah Smiley, 19, broke down in tears as she disclosed she had not been able to eat that morning.

Smiley, who grew up in foster care, said that her food stamps had been cut off when she received a welfare check. The money was not enough to cover books, meals, hygiene and other expenses, she said.

“All the time,” she said when describing how often she goes hungry. Smiley said she was couch-surfing while running for Miss Compton and studying small-business entrepreneurship — with a goal of opening her own bakery. “I cry at night and hope for better days.”

The California State University system last year released a study showing that one in every ten of its 460,000 students was homeless, and one in five had spotty access to food.

Almost 6,000 students participated in the online survey, which was developed with the Wisconsin Hope Lab and the Association of Community College Trustees, a nonprofit group representing college district board members.  The effort was part of a large-scale study involving some 70 institutions form 24 states.  In the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), which includes the city of Phoenix, Arizona, the Hope Lab reported that some 12 percent of students were homeless.  However, that study also revealed a level of “housing insecurity” of 49 percent.  With respect to hunger, “Sixty-four percent of MCCCD students reported marginal or worse food security during the previous 30 days. Thirty-one percent of MCCCD students report very low food security, which reflects, ‘multiple indications of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns due to inadequate resources for food.'”

I guess these studies place calls for “safe spaces” — and those who piously denounce those calls — in a quite different context.

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