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Facing It Together: San Diego college students cope with homelessness

Posted at 4:52 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 20:29:48-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Dreams of a degree take a backseat when you’re trying to find a safe place to sleep every night.

As part of 10News’ Facing It Together initiative, we’re sharing a glimpse into life for homeless students and what’s being done to help them.

“I’ve got to finish, that’s why I keep coming, I’ve got to finish,” said Brandon, a San Diego native who only wanted to be identified by his first name.

Brandon started taking classes at City College three years ago in hopes of becoming a psychologist.

“I love City, I love City, I feel so safe here and welcome here, I always have.”

Six years sober, Brandon overcame a meth and heroin addiction. But he's been in and out of homelessness for several years.

Complete Coverage: Facing It Together

“Education will help me get out of this homeless situation, education will help my family, my kids included, get out of poverty.”

Brandon spends more hours getting to and from school than inside the actual classroom. Living in Escondido, it's a two-hour bus commute each way.

He and his dog are currently living in a shed with a bed made out of recycled materials.

“I would love to have my own pad, that I can actually take a shower and wash dishes in a sink. Hot water, it’s been a while.”

After surviving a suicide attempt in 2003, Brandon wants to help others struggling. And there are many. A 2018 study found 9 percent of university students were homeless in the last year. The figure was 12 percent for community college students.

Stephanie Hernandez and her husband, both Palomar College students, became homeless after their landlord raised the rent. They spent a year and a half living in their car.

“The biggest struggle was going to sleep at night and not knowing if you’d get woken up by the cops,” Hernandez said. “Having no job, having nothing, this being your home with no gas, and being stuck somewhere…it’s heart-shattering.”

Hernandez was ready to quit until she confided in school employees, who told her about the campus food pantry. Palomar College helped Hernandez get a job and an emergency grant for a car expense.

“I think we really addressed the food and nutrition part first; the homelessness thing is going to probably take a little longer.”

Aiden Ely with Palomar College said the school has created a task force to look into safe overnight parking lots for students. They're also considering solutions like on-campus housing and housing vouchers.

“In the meantime, we are aware students are homeless tonight,” said Ely.

To find resources for students and the homeless crisis, see the 10News Facing It Together resource guide.