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Victor Valley College Aims To House Homeless Students With New Program

‘It Takes a Village,’ a partnership with Searchlight Society, tackles growing issue

Two Victor Valley College students, center, stand with members of Searchlight Society and others after being temporarily housed through a new program on Jan. 18, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Searchlight Society)

By: Martin Estacio
January 25, 2021 —

A first-of-its-kind program aiming to house students facing challenges on where to live began earlier this month thanks to a partnership between Victor Valley College and the nonprofit Searchlight Society.

Since the “It Takes a Village” program started officially on Jan. 4, two students have already been temporarily put up in hotel rooms while they await more permanent housing.

“Our goal is to provide stable housing and wraparound services to the housing insecure students at Victor Valley College,” said Amber Allen, VVC’s director of special grant programs. “It is our pleasure to be on the front line in ensuring the academic and personal success of students experiencing challenges around housing.”

VVC was one of 14 community colleges to receive grants last year through the College Homeless and Housing Insecure Pilot Program, an effort funded by a $9 million allocation from the state’s budget.

The college was awarded $700,000 — the highest amount given — in March 2020, an amount that will be distributed annually for three years to support rapid rehousing for students, according to California Community Colleges.

Barstow Community College also received $500,000 a year for three years.

Meanwhile, homelessness among college students appears to be a growing issue in the state.

Out of almost 40,000 students surveyed at 57 community colleges throughout California in 2016 and 2018, almost one-fifth said they were homeless in the previous year, according to a study released in 2019.

The report — issued by the Hope Center of College, Community, and Justice — also found that 50% of students said they were concerned about food and 60% reported they were housing insecure.

Of the two VVC students who were recently housed, one was living out of her car, said Daniel Herrera, the director of operations for Searchlight Society.

The nonprofit provides case management for students and links them to supportive services that will allow them to become independent.

“We’re essentially there to help them do whatever they need to do to get them to a point where they can live on their own,” Herrera said.

But since the state funding can only be spent on direct housing costs, the program’s officials are looking for community partners who can help donate essential items for students.

“We can’t help purchase food, we can’t help purchase furniture, so we don’t want to put them in an apartment and the apartment is completely empty,” Herrera said.

Essential items could include clothing, towels, desks, computers and couches.

Herrera added that his nonprofit is also looking into building something more “sustainable” for students, such as a tiny home village with help from community partnerships as well.

“It Takes a Village is a more than just a name, it’s the program motto,” he said. “Only together can we make change and empower the lives of the individuals that we serve.”

This article courtesy of Victorville Valley Daily Press


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