Without a home: AS makes plans to address needs of homeless students

The Associated Students' Homeless Committee began their term with an ad-hoc meeting on Tuesday, where they discussed their ideas with homeless workers from the Santa Monica and SMC counselors. Led by Jonathan Hughes, recently-elected director of Student Assistance, the Homeless Committee plans to kickstart more hands-on initiatives within AS, aiding homeless students in remaining in school.

“It should be our number one priority that whatever assistance is needed is ensured,” Hughes said, “and that any person who is homeless now walks across the stage to receive their degree or certificate in the near future.”

The committee's first plan of action is to identify the homeless population on campus.

Homelessness comes in many forms, stresses the Homeless Committee. Many students couch-surf or live out of their cars, unaware they are technically homeless and entitled to help from various federal, state, local and college assistance programs.

After identifying the different states of homelessness, the committee can focus their efforts in the most productive manner.

There are five major needs identified by the Homeless Committee in keeping students in school: housing, food, jobs, education and healthcare.

Housing is a large task for the committee to take on, but nonetheless they are currently looking into ways in which they can connect homeless students to affordable living spaces.

Food is the first immediate plan of action on the committee’s list. In the past, SMC made attempts to partner with the cafeteria to put a food voucher program in place, but nobody followed through. The Homeless Committee seeks to realize this project.

The Sustainability Department is currently planning their biannual student farmer’s market, where they provide fresh produce leftover from local farmers to SMC students. The committee also plans on meeting with local markets to discuss further food gleaning partnerships to provide for students in need.

In aiding financially-troubled students, the committee points to campus programs such as Extended Opportunity Program & Services (EOPS). EOPS provides book vouchers for students who qualify, in addition to various educational and personal counseling services.

There are also talks of beginning an AS sponsorship to cover AS fees for homeless students. Though nothing is confirmed yet, the Homeless Committee recognizes this need, as students registered with AS are provided free transportation via the Big Blue Bus company.

Concerning jobs, the committee points to Student Help and Federal Work Study, both student employment opportunities under the Financial Aid Department. Students are eligible for Federal Work Study through FAFSA. Details on Federal Work Study and Student Help opportunities are listed on SMC’s website.

Since mental health is a major cause in homelessness, the committee stresses getting at-risk students into the psychological health services on campus.

While most of these initiatives are only in the beginning stages, the Homeless Committee hopes to have several campus programs in place before the end of the academic year. The committee also plans on assisting homeless students in connecting with outside resources in the community.

The Homeless Committee's next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. in the Cayton Center. For those in need of any related assistance, contact Hughes through the AS office in the Cayton Center.