My Plan to Address Housing Insecurity for Los Angeles’s Community College Students.
Nearly one in five of the District’s students suffer from homelessness, and 55% experience housing insecurity throughout the year. The District must move forward on housing with urgency to make progress on this issue.
We have a housing crisis in Los Angeles that is only getting worse, and this is directly impacting the District’s students and workforce. Other school and college districts in the Southland are ahead of the LACCD on housing.
The evidence could not be any clearer: the development of housing will improve the living conditions of vulnerable students, faculty and staff – and lead to improved attendance and graduation rates.
The District has studied the need for housing for the last five years but it has failed to take meaningful action. It isn’t hard to believe significant progress hasn’t been made on this issue. The Board of Trustees is dysfunctional and it is hard to have confidence in their abilities to put the community’s interests first. Teresa Watanbe’s piece in the Los Angeles Times, “With lawsuits and overspending, another L.A. Community College bond measure sparks controversy” is a tale of cronyism and corruption whose ultimate victims are the District’s students and workforce.
The article makes it very clear this board is not responsible with the bond money with which we have entrusted them. They’re also not creative thinkers.
This is an election year, so it isn’t surprising that the Board has made some progress on housing in recent months with two memorandums of understanding signed between the District and local non-profits. The creation of a pool of student housing is a major milestone for the District, but the newly created pool of 43 beds must be part of a larger system of housing support the District must build if they wish to make significant headway in tackling our housing crisis.
The lack of high quality data also hampers the ability of the District to aid its students. While survey data can provide valuable insight into the scope of a housing crisis, a lack of contact information or a centralized resource center for homeless students makes already difficult outreach nearly impossible. What good are beds if students cannot be found to fill them?
As a Trustee, I will build the coalition required to address our housing crisis with the urgency and scale required to make a significant impact. My plan for housing calls for:
Collaborating with experts to build a system for outreach and referral so those most in need are first in line for District-affiliated housing opportunities as they come online.
Building new partnerships and expanding existing relationships with non-profits who have developed successful programs with this District and with others that LACCD can model.
Using Bond money to buy surplus commercial real estate in Los Angeles (vacant office park space, shuttered hotels, etc.) to create low-cost live/learn satellite facilities for multiple campuses.
Using Bond money to create brand new live/learn facilities as envisioned for on-campus implementation but also for off-campus to spur economic development and employment opportunities for students in key industries.
Using Bond money to invest in African American South Los Angeles with facilities that should also include housing.
Developing specific programs to serve the needs of LGBTQ+ youth who suffer from housing insecurity and homelessness at rates higher than the general population.
BRINGING DOWN BARRIERS
I understand how difficult it is to get things done in large, complex organizations. I’ve spent my entire life working in large, complex organizations. So I know that progress is possible when there is active leadership on an issue. This Board needed leadership on housing for students well before this pandemic hit. I intend to be a voice for the voiceless on this issue.
BRINGING THE COLLEGES TO THE COMMUNITY
The district has nearly $3 billion in unobligated bond money tied to bond Measure CC, which 75% of voters approved at the ballot box in November 2016.
Measure CC was designed to upgrade classrooms, facilities, and technology in order to expand access to training programs that help students learn new skills and find better paying jobs in manufacturing, biotech, nursing, engineering, and other high-demand careers. These are important objectives.
In light of the credible evidence that the District has overbuilt on its campuses, it is time to think creatively about how this bond money could be spent.
I would argue that the workforce development objectives of the measure can be met in a way that also addresses the housing needs of the District’s people. My plan calls for an immediate review of plans for the bond’s unobligated funds and demands that a significant portion of these funds be re-allocated to projects that deliver both instructional facilities and housing.
The live/learn hub concept developed for the District by the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing should be reimagined for off-campus implementation. The District has a precedent for building and maintaining satellite facilities off-campus, so this isn’t a radical idea.
Other colleges and universities are building housing facilities off their campuses with the express purpose of fostering connections and collaboration with the community at-large. A very good example is Cal State Long Beach, which is building a live/learn hub in downtown Long Beach with the express purpose of activating “new economic opportunities and academic partnerships.”
I see great potential for the District to build live/learn hubs of its own in places like East L.A.’s Bioscience Corridor, the media districts of Culver City and near Silicon Beach. But investing in places that are already in advanced stages of development is not enough. We need to look at this bond money as an opportunity to invest in places that want and need new investment. One way the District could answer the call of the BLM movement is by investing its dollars in majority/plurality African-American communities across the District with live/learn hubs creating new opportunities in those places.
The District has spent a lot of time studying this issue. The time for bold action at the scale this crisis demands is now.
HOUSING FOR LGBTQ+ STUDENTS
Los Angeles County has over 10,000 unsheltered and housing unstable youth. Studies find that between 20% and 45% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ – a rate that is at least 2 to 4 times greater than the estimated percentage of all youth who identify as LGBTQ+.
In August last year, USC’s Homeless Policy Research Institute released a meta-analysis of studies done here in Los Angeles and across the country on LGBTQ+ Youth Experiencing Homelessness. Their key takeaways:
LGBTQ+ youth (those under 25) are more likely to experience homelessness than their heterosexual and cisgender peers.
A higher percentage of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles are unsheltered, in comparison to heterosexual and cisgender youth experiencing homelessness, illustrating a reluctance by LGBTQ+ youth to seek shelter, and/or a failure by shelters to provide LGBTQ+ youth with accessible, safe spaces.
Unsheltered LGBTQ+ and youth suffer from greater levels of trauma, including physical and sexual assault, mistreatment by police, and sexual propositioning in comparison to other homeless youth. Transgender and gender non-conforming homeless youth are at greater risk of bullying, family rejection, and sexual abuse.
In attempts to find shelter and support, LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming youth are at greater risk of both discrimination that denies access and exploitation that deters them from otherwise beneficial programs and services.
These numbers suggest that there are thousands of LGBTQ+ students in the Los Angeles Community College District who are housing unstable and hundreds who are homeless. The prevalence of homelessness in Los Angeles County and amongst the students in the District – where over half of students report being housing unstable and nearly 20% report being homeless – can lead to no other conclusion. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is only making these issues worse. It is time to get to work.
As a Trustee, I will move immediately address this issue by taking the following actions as part of my housing plan:
I will work with the housing non-profits that currently partner with the District to develop housing solutions specifically designed for homeless LGBTQ+ students.
I will build a coalition to re-imagine and re-purpose the District’s remaining $3B in construction bond money to develop housing at scale - which, as a necessity, must be designed with the needs of LGBTQ+ students in mind.