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Homeless College Students Can Now Call a Place Home

-Editorial

Miracles can happen in an instant when people join for a good cause and put their good faith at work, one good example is the new tiny home development that will help homeless students. 

In just two-five months, a vacant city parcel became a beautiful place that will be the home for students that have face homelessness. They can now look towards a hopeful future as they can now have a place to have a home in an area that is located on the corner of Bradshaw Street and 12th. 

The Lotus Living, Rise Above Resilient Community was brought to fruition through a partnership between the City of El Centro, Imperial Valley College, and Imperial Valley College Foundation. The Lotus Living Community consists of twenty-six (26) tiny home units, assembled as a “tiny home village” for the use of Imperial Valley College students, with priority given to foster youth. Imperial Valley College estimates there are approximately 210 homeless students attending IVC.

“As summer approaches, I worry about these students and it’s admirable that in spite of the many challenges that have been exacerbated with the pandemic, they have hope that their lives will change by continuing their education,” said Martha Garcia, President/Superintendent of Imperial Valley College. “We were able to create this community of hope thanks to this collaboration and it’s a representation of hope for our students.”

El Centro Mayor Cheryl Villegas-Walker said this was a great day for the Imperial Valley and a testament to what can happen when people join forces. 

“A lot of us had the luxury of going to school and the most critical thing we had to worry about whether or not we were going to have a date on Friday, let alone if we had a place to stay,” Walker said. “This will allow students to focus on their education, finish their education, and get the job of their dreams.”

Since 2016, IVC has invested time, money, and hard work to ensure they remove barriers that perpetuate inequities on campus. The IVC campus serves as a beacon of hope for the Imperial Valley. The Lotus Living Community exemplifies IVC’s Basic Needs Initiative to provide preventative and sustainable solutions to housing insecurity and homelessness.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, ending homelessness became an even greater priority. An IVC student shared their struggle due to the pandemic:

“I am homeless… I struggle daily to find safe places to sleep, and even the places that I can find are still terrifying because they are out in the open where anyone can walk by or approach me at any time. I am lucky enough to be able to shower once every 1-2 weeks but in between those times, I become disgusted with myself because I have nowhere to clean up at all or even just simply go to the restroom properly or have access to the toilet paper. There are no more public restrooms or port-a-potties…it’s very difficult to find a business or establishment that is open or willing to let me in…I can’t even buy fast food because I don’t have a car to go through the drive-thru windows in and most places won’t let me inside to order.”

The State of California made $600 million available through the Home key Program.  Home Key is a statewide effort to rapidly sustain and expand housing for persons experiencing homelessness and impacted by COVID-19. The City of El Centro submitted a grant application and was one of 1 of 94 projects selected in the State of California.

The construction of the project was funded through $2.6 million from Home key funds and $458,000 of Homeless Emergency Aid Program funds awarded by Imperial County through the Continuum of Care Council. Additionally, Enterprise nonprofit granted $524,114 for two years of operating costs. Blue Shield of California awarded the funds to Enterprise, who then selected this project as a recipient.

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