Homeless students face challenges

Efren Rangel, Coordinator of Extended Opportunities Program Services and Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education, hopes to spread the word of services offered at Saddleback that may benefit students struggling with resources.

Hunger and homelessness are very widespread among college students. In March 2021, according to the National Center for Homeless Education, 2020, student homelessness is on the rise by 15% each year. More than 1.7 million students are homeless in America and as dire as the national situation is, some states are more affected.  California is one state that leads. The homeless student updated data is delayed in Orange County and will be available in 2022 due to COVID.


Saddleback College has made many resources available to students who are in need of shelter, food, clothing and more.  The director of EOPS/CARE, Efren Rangel, said there is quite a bit of help for those who meet all the eligibility criteria.  Some of the perks:  EOPS and CARE Book Services, parking permit, priority registration, academic, career and personal counseling, additional tutoring, Bus pass, Laptop loan, graduation cap and gown, Textbook Loan Program, application fee waiver to 4-year colleges/universities, EOPS Summer Bridge, EOPS Scholarships, ASG Sponsored Events and Honor Society Membership fees.


California, for example, has seen a 48% growth in student homelessness over the last decade. And because of the COVID 19 pandemic, which has caused unemployment rates to rise.  Many factors keep students from finding work, and it can be from sheer fear of the virus.


There are 269,000 students homeless to fill Dodger stadium five times.  Students struggle for food, clothing, social services and shelter, often couch surfing, moving from one location to another, often sleeping on the streets.  Often homeless students do not graduate.


Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End homelessness, told NPR the primary cause of the crisis is simple:  Housing has gotten way too scarce and expensive.


In nearby areas, there is the Friendship Shelter, Our Father’s Table, Family Assistance Ministries (949-492-8477), The Mission Bible Church, New Hope Housing, Lighthouse C.M., Church of the Nazarene, Christian Life Fellowship, Catholic churches, The Crossing Church, Laura’s House, OC Shelter.org (800-605-1580), Youth Shelters/Emergency Support 24-hour hotline (714-842-6600) in Mission Viejo.  The Salvation Army Hospitality House provides food, clothing, bedding, linen, counseling, job search assistance, and integrated employment.  South County Outreach (949-380-8144) is another non-profit, non-sectarian  organization helping homeless students with housing, food and homelessness prevention.


The City Council of Laguna Niguel approved the award of additional federal grant funding to Mercy House.  South County Outreach including Family Assistance provides rental, utilities,  assistance, emergency transportation and food.  The public can contact Deputy City Manager, Justin Martin at:  jimartin@cityoflagunaniguel.org.