Two PCC professors are spearheading an effort to address the school’s homeless student population by collaborating with the city of Pasadena.
Social Sciences professors Cheryl Beard and Lynora Rogacs are in the very early stages of trying to form a committee along with their office-mates in social sciences to address the homeless student population long-term while going into crisis-intervention mode in hopes to get these students supplies, services and shelter.
Beard said she stumbled onto the situation only about a week ago and Rogacs made a public comment at last week’s Academic Senate meeting to bring it to the school’s attention. They quickly put together care packages for the estimated six homeless students and delivered them to Rebecca Cobb, the dean of Student Life.
“[We’re] really at the beginning. Very, very beginning,” said Beard. They have reached out to the City of Pasadena to assist PCC with training and resources. According to Rogacs, the city has had success in reducing the homeless population locally and is on board to help PCC get these students the services they need.
Rogacs and Beard hope to implement a formal process to assist all faculty in identifying signs that a student may be homeless and establish a list of resources to better understand the social and psychological issues that are unique to homeless students. They also hope to have a permanent place for food and hygiene supply distribution.
They are working with the Food Recovery Network Club at PCC to get perishable foods but need a physical space with a refrigerator for students to access the food and hygiene supplies. Together they are discussing plans to raise funds to have a store of sorts with supplies available in non-descript recyclable bags.
“Everybody wants to help, we just got to march in the same direction,” said Beard.
Rogacs and Beard also realize they are dealing with a very sensitive situation and understand that these students want their privacy and often to remain anonymous. Some of the students may be athletes, or young women concerned for their safety. It’s likely they are dealing with the stigma associated with being homeless.
“It’s heartbreaking. In this wealthy community, we can do better,” said Beard.
According to USA Today, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) reported there were approximately 58,000 homeless students across the nation in 2013. Beard said she is amazed that even being homeless, these students still choose to get an education here at PCC. She knows they haven’t given up hope.
“It’s up to their PCC family to help them,” said Rogacs.
Rogacs said there are many reasons students are homeless or just need help financially. She said it can be as simple as they need help filing for assistance. But when it’s more complicated, PCC needs a protocol and steps to identify the situation and help students get the assistance they need.
Many of these forms require a student to give a permanent address, which complicates the situation. They may not have a phone or transportation to get them to the appointments they need.
Beard believes it may take into the next year, but they plan to get everyone trained from the janitors to the president. The process may be just beginning but the professors in social sciences are reaching out to the community and students for help. They have put a “band-aid” on it said Beard by getting them some quick supplies and food, but “the weather is changing.”
Rogacs and Beard are considering keeping supplies for homeless students in their office, room C349, and encourage students to bring by supplies that can easily fit into a backpack. They do not recommend confronting students they think may be homeless and to respect their privacy, but encourage reporting it to campus police or PCC faculty.
“We’re not going to stop until everybody on this campus is trained to stop this, to say something,” said Beard.