Sky-high rent and Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis have helped bring the issue of housing insecurity to UCLA’s doorstep.
Year after year, we hear stories of how homeless Bruins prevail against the socio-economic odds they face. Of course, UCLA offers financial aid packages to students, but for a university system that markets itself as accessible to those of all social classes, this so-called accessibility isn’t always that accessible.
There are many efforts that seek to help students facing homelessness. Student-run initiatives include Bruin Shelter, a nonprofit providing temporary housing for homeless students. The university’s initiatives include the Economic Crisis Response Team, for instance, which helps students with meal vouchers and emergency housing.
These kinds of initiatives certainly help students facing different levels of housing insecurity, even if they fall short of solving the underlying issue of homelessness. The problem, however, is that these programs can be difficult for students to navigate, especially since there is little to no coordination between the initiatives. And that’s a shame, because the programs complement each other. Facilities such as temporary housing, shelter space and food closets are all required to address homelessness in the long term.
Centralization is the most pragmatic way for UCLA to address student homelessness. Given how broad and varied these resources are, it only makes sense that the university houses its various services – student- or university-run – in one hub on campus. Creating a center to support students facing housing insecurity can help coordinate these efforts and make it easier for students to determine which programs – or set of programs – can best help them.
Similar to the Transfer Student Center or the Veteran Resource Center, a housing insecurity center could become a designated space for homeless students to learn more about resources provided by both UCLA and students.
Students have shown they are committed to aiding homeless individuals through their own initiatives. Bruin Shelter, for example, was one of the first student-run homeless shelters for college students. Even the undergraduate student government is interested in housing: one council member ran on a platform of raising awareness about housing insecurity and creating scholarships for housing-insecure students, and another spoke of working with UCLA and Westwood leaders to bring more affordable housing to students.
But as passionate as students are about this issue, student-driven initiatives aren’t cheap. Bruin Shelter costs $25,000 annually to operate. The university’s efforts seem to take similar financial tolls too: The ECRT provides temporary housing for only 14 to 20 days – far too short a time to feasibly address a homeless student’s housing needs.
But together, these initiatives could have a larger impact. A centralized hub could help students fund their initiatives through already established sources and appeal to new ones, such as donors, using the university’s clout. Furthermore, it would allow initiatives such as Bruin Shelter to become institutionalized so they remain in operation in years to come, even after their most passionate supporters graduate.
This isn’t to say existing resources aren’t enough. Rather, it’s to say they go hand-in-hand. The point of a homeless center would be to supplement, not to supplant, existing resources.
Homeless students endure many hardships. Creating a center for homeless students would give them a place to turn to for their needs.