Just outside the Trader Joe’s in the USC village, buckets full of pantry staples like boxed stuffing and canned vegetables are gathered. Trojan Shelter is setting up for the Thanksgiving Fall Food Drive.
Chen: Our mission is basically to house college students who have housing insecurity and currently were hosting two students at our shelter located in Koreatown.
That’s Jacqueline Chen, one of the Co-Presidents of Trojan Shelter. She’s collecting food for students living at the shelter.
Chen: I think the 2020 well-being collective that USC did said that 17% of college students experience housing insecurity at some point in their college career, which is around like one in five people that you meet around college, which is clearly an incredible issue.
Chen says this year alone, Trojan Shelter received over 50 applications. Beyond their physical location, Trojan Shelter also offers resources for students experiencing housing insecurity. Natasha Koneru, one of the directors of resources, believes this to be a critical element of Trojan Shelter. She recalls an experience she had with a student staying at the shelter.
Koneru: Thing’s just felt really difficult for him, and he just felt really behind compared to his peers. In that moment, like, I just really wanted to provide him like any reassurance that I could and let him know that like he’s going through, like homelessness while he’s in college and he’s still, like trying to make better for himself. And like, that alone is something that he should be really, really proud of.
Last year, Koneru started out with the program as a volunteer. But her passion for their mission quickly grew, along with her involvement.
Koneru: It’s just very sad for me to think about students who are like in the same position as you and I, who are really just trying to get an education better their lives. It’s just really sad for me to like think about them not having access to food and like not having access to shelter and like just not having access to the things that they need to succeed as students.
While most USC students are planning to head home for the holidays, head of fundraising, Lauren Tham, plans on staying in town to help out with this initiative.
Tham: So the food today is going right to the shelter. I’m going to take it there right after we’re done. And then on Thanksgiving we’ll cook it all up and whatever extras we have will roll over into the next weeks and probably Thanksgiving food for two weeks straight, hopefully if people are feeling giving.
While the holidays are a busy time for Trojan Shelter, it’s not the only opportunity for students to lend a hand. Koneru, Chen and Tham all agree that advocating for more affordable housing is essential to addressing this issue.
Tham: The most rewarding part is seeing how me being there makes their life ten times easier and getting to know these people and hearing their stories and, you know, making friends and realizing they’re just like me.