A few dozen UCLA undergraduate, graduate and Ph. D. students came together in October 2016 to open the Bruin Shelter, the state's first homeless shelter designed for college students.
Nestled in the upstairs balcony of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica, the shelter has space for up to nine students. The church opens its doors every night around 7 p.m. to provide UCLA, Santa Monica College and Loyola Marymount University students a home for 12 hours.
"It's need-based and it's so hard comparing need because people can be without housing for so many different reasons," Bruin Shelter Director Rebecca Sarvady told Annenberg Media.
Bruin Shelter connects with universities and takes applications from students who are without housing for reasons like aging out of foster care and receiving enough aid to go to college, but not enough to live on. The shelter allows students to stay for up to six months, but many, according to Sarvady, don't need that much time.
"In December we graduated our first student," Pastor Eric Shafer told Annenberg Media. "Think about that a minute, we provided a student a safe place to stay and study in his last semester in college and sent him off into the world to do good."
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church Pastor Eric Shafer said his congregation opened the shelter with open arms because homeless college students fly under the radar too much without getting the help they need.
"It's an invisible problem. It's especially a problem in California because of the high cost of housing but it's a problem across the country," he said.
Bruin Shelter eventually wants to build the program to be on campus, so students don't have to take public transportation to classes.