Cerritos College has opened what's billed as the state's first community college housing development exclusively for students facing homelessness.
“Our goal with The Village is to provide a safe haven to students who are housing insecure until they graduate and transition into their own self-supported space,” Cerritos College President/Superintendent Jose Fierro said.
“When students don't have to worry about where they are going to sleep at night, they can focus on their studies and improve their grades.”
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Located blocks away from the Norwalk campus, “the project features seven modern townhomes with a mix of free and affordable rental options that will house students between the ages of 18-25 years old,” according to the college.
In 2016, the college district entered into a partnership with Jovenes Inc., a Los Angeles nonprofit that assists homeless and displaced young adults, to develop a housing model with transitional homes and support services exclusively for homeless students.
The college also received support for the project from the city of Norwalk, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
According to the 2019 #RealCollege survey, nearly one in five community college students experience homelessness. More than half of Cerritos College students who responded to the survey faced housing insecurity and had difficulty paying rent or a mortgage.
Students who experience homelessness and food insecurity also find it difficult to manage personal and financial responsibilities and navigate the demands of college life, the survey showed.
Data from the survey identified specific Cerritos College student groups as high risk for facing homelessness. Foster youth, black, Native American, Southwest Asian, Pacific Islander, Asian American and undocumented students are particularly more vulnerable than other student groups, according to the report.
“Meeting the basic needs of our students is a major priority for the district, which includes housing students who face homelessness,” Cerritos College Board President Marisa Perez said. “The Village housing project is one of the many steps we have taken to serve one of our most vulnerable student populations. The Village provides students with a secure environment so they can become self-reliant while finishing their educational goals.”