“Education is the great equalizer in our society, and we must do all that we can to ensure the students in the LACCD system are able to undertake their studies without worrying about having a roof over their heads or enough food to eat,” County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said during a press conference at LA Trade-Technical College (LATTC).
Almost 6,000 of LACCD’s 134,000 students took the Survey on Food & Housing Insecurity. Among the findings: 18.6 percent of respondents experienced homelessness during 2016, while 55 percent struggled to pay their rent or mortgage and utility bills, and/or had to endure substandard housing conditions in unstable neighborhoods. Meanwhile, 62.7 percent of respondents reported not having enough to eat.
Myriah Smiley, a 19-year-old former foster youth experiencing homelessness in Compton, is studying at LATTC in hopes of starting her own small business someday. She is staying at a friend’s house while awaiting public housing, and occasionally goes hungry. “It’s hard, but I’m still going,” she said.
LACCD Board of Trustees President Scott Svonkin and Trustee Mike Eng said the district would make it easier for students to access on-campus and community resources that would help them secure housing, financial, healthcare and other assistance. The district also plans to let homeless students use on-campus shower facilities and other amenities, and to train faculty, staff and administrators to be more aware of their homeless students’ needs.
Board President Svonkin said, “LACCD has a responsibility to not only educate its students but to ensure that our students are in the best possible position to receive quality education without being hungry in our classrooms.” Trustee Eng added, “By acting on the recommendations contained in the report, we can ensure that our students have the opportunity to succeed without the burden of food insecurity and the stress of homelessness.”
Los Angeles County’s $30-billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 factors in $260 million in revenue from voter-approved Measure H, a ballot measure to fund services and housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The strategy is laid out in the County’s Homeless Initiative website.