The Norwalk school recently became a pioneer among California community colleges
Homelessness remains a problem among students — especially those attending community colleges.
But Cerritos College, in Norwalk, recently became a pioneer among California community colleges for its efforts to solve student homeless: The school as created its own housing.
Cerritos College on Thursday, June 11, celebrated the completion of its new housing project, The Village, California’s first community college housing exclusively for students facing homelessness or housing insecurity. The college hosted a virtual and on-site press conference to unveil the effort — which stemmed from a collaboration with multiple organizations.
Funding for the $4 million housing development project came from the college budget and in partnership with Jovenes, Inc., a Los Angeles nonprofit that assists homeless and displaced young adults. Norwalk, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority also assisted with the project.
“Homelessness among community college students is a huge problem, especially here in LA County,” Hahn said in a statement. “But for too long, it was overlooked by policy makers because it didn’t fit the preconceived notion of what ‘homelessness’ looks like.
In 2019, 19% of students across California’s 115 community colleges experienced homelessness during the past year, according to a survey by Temple University researchers. The state’s community colleges, taken together, represent the largest system of higher education in the country, with more than 2.1 million students, according to the Chancellor’s Office for the California Community Colleges. That would mean nearly 400,000 students were potentially homeless.
The Village, just blocks away from Cerritos College, consists of seven 1,477 square foot townhouses, six of which are three-bedroom, three-bathroom units. The development will house up to 28 students from 18 to 25 years old. These townhouses feature a mix of free options and affordable rental options for students. Four of the townhouses will offer affordable housing options for up to fourteen students, offering their own bedroom or a shared master bedroom.
Jovenes will serve at The Village’s lead housing service provider, with staff occupying one unit to provide case management, academic support, communal activities and overnight supervision. Jovenes is master leasing the property from the school for about $10,000 a month to provide housing and supportive services to students. The nonprofit will also assist as needed with subsidized rent through its college-focused rapid rehousing program.
“I applaud the innovative, historic work at Cerritos College to provide safe and secure housing for homeless students on campus,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley. “Now, more than ever, is the time for our colleges to rise to the occasion, serve as centers of strength in their communities and find creative ways to support our students most in need as we adapt to challenging times. Cerritos College’s efforts to establish this new housing development, coupled with the collaborative support of local community partners throughout the process, serves as a model to our system.”
Jovenes — which has helped students at East LA College, Rio Hondo College, Cerritos College and LA Trade Tech — plans to expand its operations to Long Beach City College, Cal State Long Beach and Cal Poly Pomona.
Cerritos College officials, for their part, think the model they used can work elsewhere.
“We believe the collaboration model we used to develop the Village housing project can be widely replicated across the state to solve the issue of student housing for community college students facing homelessness,” said Cerritos College Superintendent/President Jose Fierro. “We are proud to have worked alongside such great partners to provide a unique and innovative project that will serve our homeless students.”
Students interested in housing should email Jovenes: CerritosPN@jovenesinc.org.