Pierce responds to rising number of homeless students in LACCD

Due to the rising number of homeless students in LACCD, administration and students are looking to start and expand programs to help those in need.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 1 in 5 LACCD students are homeless.  Though the number of homeless students attending Pierce is unknown, there has been a noticeable steady rise, according to Director of Health Services Beth Benne. According to Benne, the number of homeless students has increased during the last two decades since she began working here.

Homeless students face hunger and inconsistent housing, which affects their ability to graduate and transfer to four-year institutions, she said.

“They don’t have enough to eat, and their chances of success are extremely reduced, because they are not able to feed their brain and shelter their bodies,” Benne said.

Benne said that she has been trying create a census to get an idea about how many homeless students are on campus.

“It isn’t just a problem Pierce faces,” Benne said. “It’s a problem the entire California Community College District is trying to deal with.”

Pierce students have started to take action to help their peers.

Jordan Rice, the Students Against Student Hunger (StASH) president, is working to fight student hunger on campus by providing a food pantry at Pierce. As the first organization on campus that provides these services, StASH has the goal to help all students with hunger.

“We really just want to give you food if you’re hungry, period,” Rice said. “We are battling food insecurity.”

Rice said he is hoping to expand the campus organization. StASH doesn’t want to just help the homeless, but also athletes and out-of-state students. Rice said he noticed that there has been an influx of homeless students receiving aid from StASH.

Robin Sawyer, a Pierce counselor, said she is trying to make resources for homeless students easier to access. She is in the process of creating a brochure for homeless students.

She said the brochure would include information such as housing resources.

Sawyer also said she is open to the idea of being a counselor specifically for homeless students, but also stated the fact that there are so many students, that it may not be viable at the moment.

“It’s my passion,” Sawyer said. “I just really want to help.”

Pierce is also putting homeless students’ education into consideration. Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters said he wants to see homeless students succeed with their academic goals.

Dixon-Peters wants to establish outside connections for homeless students. For that to be successful, he said, student-to-student communication needs to be just as high.

“No one is successful by themselves,” he said. “All of us should be engaged in this conversation.”