live / 2021
End College Student Homelessness
LA Room & Board is on a mission to end housing insecurity among community college students. In 2020, we achieved our ambitious goal to open Opportunity House, an affordable live-learn community in Westwood that helps students overcome barriers and graduate with stability. We formed a strong network of nonprofit partners and quickly filled our space to capacity. Now, in response to ongoing demand, we are scaling our unique model – not just to house more students, but to formalize, with our network, a replicable solution to student homelessness.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- County of Los Angeles
What is the problem that you are seeking to address?
The need for safe, affordable housing among LA County’s community college student population is significant: 1 in 5 report facing housing insecurity and homelessness. When we opened the doors to Opportunity House in September 2020, we received 350 applications for our 50-bed facility. Pandemic restrictions required us to limit our initial intake to 20 students, but we have an 80-person waitlist ready to fill our capacity as soon as regulations allow. Housing stability is essential not only for immediate wellbeing, but for setting students up for long-term success. When survival and safety needs aren’t met, individuals have difficulty learning, planning, and thinking about the future. We believe this is a key factor contributing to the fact that upwards of 70% of community college students statewide fail to graduate or transfer. This puts them at risk for long-term negative outcomes, while our communities miss out on the talent, energy, and potential these young people have to offer.
Describe the project, program, or initiative that this grant will support to address the problem identified.
Funding will help us meet rapidly growing demand following the launch of our first location. The Los Angeles Community College District is interested in having us open a second location at Marymount California University to house 30 additional students. We believe our unique model can help establish a replicable solution for ending college student homelessness regionally, statewide, and even nationally. We leverage existing resources through agreements with community colleges and four-year universities that reimagine the use of vacant dorm rooms or nearby campus housing. Opportunity House, our first location, is a converted, formerly vacant sorority house near UCLA. More than provide an affordable option, we create a thriving community. Recognizing that our students often lack financial, family, or social resources, we maximize their time in the shared space with support that promotes degree completion and builds life skills and a foundation for self-sufficiency. Our network of local nonprofits provide healthy meals, tutoring, mental health support, career development, mentorship, and financial literacy. Thanks to our partners’ belief in our vision, over the last year they provided services on a volunteer basis to help us develop proof of concept. Now, with strong initial data and growing demand, we can begin to honor these partnerships with formal, paid agreements as we scale.
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?Expand existing project, program, or initiative (expanding and continuing ongoing, successful work)
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
- Direct impact
- Indirect impact
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
While our short-term goal is to open a second site housing 30 students, we ultimately envision an end to student homelessness in LA County. Over the next year, we will build additional proof of concept needed to continue expanding our model throughout the county, particularly as students face continuing economic hardship due to the pandemic. By providing a thriving transitional housing solution, we set them up for success and prevent longer-term homelessness. By utilizing existing, vacant spaces, we create win-win partnerships that meet student needs, while helping colleges maximize facilities to meet revenue goals and making efficient use of philanthropic donations. After expanding locally, we eventually aim to be a center for excellence that advises leaders outside LA on building similar models in their communities. We also seek to raise awareness with elected officials, institutes of higher education, and nonprofits to influence public policy aimed at homelessness prevention.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
We utilize a robust evaluation system designed by our founder Sam Prater, who has 13 years of experience in higher education, plus a doctorate in educational leadership and policy. Upon joining our community, students complete an intake assessment, demonstrating current housing status, readiness for self-sufficiency, GPA, mental health, financial wellbeing, etc. These assessments guide our delivery of individualized supportive services. Our primary goal is to improve the trajectory of degree completion among community college students. Initial results from our first semester shows we are on the right track: • 77% of students ended the fall semester with a GPA of 3.0 or higher • 58% increased their GPA • 85% of attempted credits were earned In addition, 73% of students improved financial wellbeing, and we also observed initial decreases in PTSD and depression. We will continue to track student progress in each area of support provided by our nonprofit partners.
Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.
We currently partner with the following nonprofit organizations to provide a full spectrum of support to our students: – Tutor Me LA provides academic coaching and tutoring – Everytable provides healthy, home-cooked meals, and culinary and nutrition education – Twinspire builds students’ skills in budgeting, saving, banking, credit, investing, and more – Stepping Forward LA provides workshops and 1-1 and group mentoring to help students build social capital and positive relationships with caring adult – Ready to Succeed LA helps students explore career pathways and connect with industry professionals, many of whom are former foster youth themselves We will continue building essential service partnerships throughout Los Angeles County as we scale to new locations.
Which of the live metrics will you impact?
- Food insecurity
- Housing affordability
Indicate any additional LA2050 goals your project will impact.
- LA is the best place to LEARN