Hope Housing Pilot

Rio Hondo College, in partnership with Whittier College, operates a pilot housing program for unhoused transitionally aged youth. This pilot was selected through a grant with the Youth and Young Adult Pooled Housing Fund, a collaborative, youth-led grantmaking effort supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and Cedars-Sinai. This grant has supported 20 (and growing) unhoused transitionally aged (18-24) students find shelter in a dormitory residence on the Whittier College Campus.

Utilizing open housing stock at Whittier College to serve the needs of our unhoused, aspiring students at Rio Hondo College, we are funding creative and sustainable solutions to the crisis of homelessness in higher education. The students we serve come from a variety of backgrounds, and there a myriad of reasons why they have experienced housing insecurity. Some are former foster youth, others abandoned by their families after coming out as LGBTQIA+, the majority have been touched by sexual or domestic violence in their families. Some of our students have lost parents or caretakers to COVID, leaving them unhoused. Our pilot project has allowed them to come together and create their own, autonomous space utilizing the strength and resilience of the group- as they motivate each other to pursue their personal and educational goals. The YYA Grant supports transitionally aged, unhoused students, but through additional grants and donations, we’ve been able to include students aged 25-30, and currently have a program of affordable self-pay units capped at $550/month for students in need, but who do not meet grant eligibility.

Through the Hope Housing Pilot students get far more than stable, safe housing. They experience a traditional residential life program, participating in campus life, utilizing resources, and creating a community of scholars. What the students receive is far more than a roof over their heads. They have created a community with students with similar experiences and share a deep connection and friendship with one another. Additionally, our students are fully integrated into the residential college campus. They participate in campus events, use the dining hall, library, and gym facilities. They experience traditional campus-life in higher education, something many students from our area and in their socioeconomic position never could experience.

The cohort is supported by an on-site Residential Advisor as well as the Whittier College Residence Life and CARE Teams, and the Rio Hondo College Basic Needs professional staff. Additionally, students are supported by our Hope Scholars (a funded project through the US Dept of Education) Team who utilize trauma-informed approaches to coach students through their educational pathways and personal goals, focusing on employability and housing stability. Many students, for the first time in their lives, have felt at home on Whittier’s campus. The impact of stable housing and the support of a peer and professional network has illustrated itself in the student outcomes. Hope Housing students have demonstrated improved GPAs and increased enrolled unit loads, decreasing their time to degree.

Student Highlights

DT

DT, a member of the first year YYA Hope Housing Pilot Cohort, faced many obstacles in her pathway to complete her associate degrees in Kinesiology and Sports Medicines. She endured an ACL injury during basketball season, which required surgery and rehabilitation. She also balanced being a full-time student, athlete, working 20 plus hours a week at Starbucks and as a student worker at Río Hondo College. This was essential to support herself, pay for her expenses and car, which was her place of living as she was also unhoused. DT didn’t have any family support as she lost her father due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, she persisted with grit during these difficult times and found a way to excel in both the classroom with outstanding grades and on the basketball court. DT moved into the Whittier College dorms as part of Rio Hondo’s Hope Housing Pilot Program. There she found community, support, and stability. At a time when most students would not be able to shoulder such burdens, DT not only overcame immense obstacles, but she also excelled as a student athlete while showing authentic concern for the well-being of her fellow students in the classroom and of her teammates on the court. DT transferred to her dream school– UCLA! At UCLA she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics with a minor in African American and Latinx studies.

Ruby is entering her second year with the YYA Hope Housing Pilot. She is currently completing her prerequisites for Nursing and will start Rio Hondo’s highly competitive Associate Degree in Nursing Program this semester. Ruby was in need of stable residence following a family eviction and dispute. She is a dedicated student leader, and student worker on campus. She is an active member in campus life including student organizations such as Hope Scholars, the Victory Club, and Student Ambassadors.

Ruby