College can be a fun, exciting and a challenging time in a person’s life. Learning responsibilities, self-growth, and unfortunately for some students they learn to live on the streets, in a car and do whatever they can to get through the coursework.
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church is tackling the problem head on by providing a limited number of beds for students attending local schools.
The Bruin Shelter opens on Oct. 2, and they have already accepted 10 students, half are UCLA students and the other half are SMC students. This shelter provides a 90-day stay for females and male students; a waiting list has already formed.
Student homelessness is not a subject that is brought up often. Officials said the homeless youth population can be difficult to estimate as many individuals are embarrassed to admit their living situation.
The recent Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) reported that there are 58,158 homeless students on campus nationwide.
Los Angeles is currently the homelessness capital of the nation, but there are a few safe spaces existing for youth in these dire circumstances. Many students face homelessness due to parental job loss, lack of affordable housing and family or parental conflicts.
Louis Tse, a 26-year-old UCLA doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, wanted to do something on behalf of his fellow students and created the Bruin Shelter, a student run shelter for his peers who are experiencing homelessness in the greater Los Angeles.
The Bruin shelter is joining Harvard Y2Y in providing for vulnerable youth in local communities along with re-examining the assumptions about what being homeless means. The Bruin shelter is the second of its kind in the entire country and the first on the West Coast.
Tse met with Rev. Eric Shafer at Mount Olive Lutheran Church and both decided to team up and have the shelter be located at the church.
Rev. Eric Shafer said, “I am very humbled and inspired by the work these students have done. They are very smart individuals, and to see Louis make his dream a reality is truly remarkable. I am happy we are able to get students off the streets, now I am hoping other congregations will follow our step and help these kids out.” He goes on to say, “This is a convenient spot for the shelter, and the students are able to hop on the bus right outside that will lead them to UCLA. Speaking of UCLA I have no doubt they will get involved and help out in the future.”
The UCLA Graduate Student Association provides part of the funding for this shelter. Mt. Olive Lutheran Church also received a grant from the Lutheran Synod to help with the shelter’s finances.
The Bruin Shelter guests have access to their own bed, hot dinner and to-go breakfast bags, individual storage lockers, and communal living spaces with printing, TV, and study areas.
In addition, UCLA med students are available to help with medical, dental and vision co pays, along with a comprehensive network of on campus resources. There will also be counseling services, internship and career planning workshops.
There are no pets, drugs, weapons or alcohol allowed in the shelter. Everyone’s belongings are to be searched before entering to ensure the safety of everyone.
To be eligible students need to be part of the UCLA or SMC community who are experiencing homelessness and are between the ages of 18-24.
The Bruin Shelter accepts donations, from furniture, housing necessities, cleaning supplies, food, school supplies, and most importantly hygiene items.
There will be a benefit concert in support of the UCLA Bruin Shelter, Friday October 14 at 8 p.m.
For more information visit www.bruinshelter.com or www.mtolivelutheranchurch.org.
By Marina Andalon