The transitional housing group Los Angeles Room and Board, or LARNB, opened its third location on March 4 — the Dunamis House in Boyle Heights. LARNB aims to provide affordable housing to community college students that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The home has 100 bed spaces and has already begun to house students in the city.
The housing crisis in L.A. has been a persistent issue for many years with students and residents alike struggling to cope with high rent prices. Community college students in particular have been facing the brunt of skyrocketing housing costs as many of their schools do not provide housing. This forces some community college students to commute long distances every day. The high cost of living in L.A., especially in areas like Santa Monica, has only made matters worse for students like Yousef Khafaja.
“I am currently paying an arm and a leg right now for rent at an apartment far away from my school. I don’t know if I can honestly keep paying these high prices,” said Khafaja, a Santa Monica Community College student. “Some of my buddies told me about the program, so I am definitely thinking about trying it out when my lease is up.”
Khafaja hopes that his community college will someday offer housing to their students, as it would provide much-needed relief from high rent prices and long commute times. He currently lives in South L.A. due to the high cost of living in Santa Monica, spending nearly two hours daily on his commute. According to data analytics site Bestplaces, rent in Santa Monica is 54.3% more expensive than the rest of L.A.
“I really wish they did [transitional housing] because it would help me out a lot,” Khafaja said.
The opening of the Dunamis House provides a glimmer of hope for students like Khafaja. The transitional housing group not only provides a place for students to live but offers access to a variety of amenities to help students succeed. Romona Prater, the community outreach and marketing manager for LARNB, lists a podcast studio, barista station, common areas for studying, a theater and more among the amenities.
“Everything you can think of to ensure success is there at that house,” she said.
According to the LARNB website, one in five community or trade school students in L.A. face housing insecurity. This means that a significant number of students are unable to find or afford stable housing while pursuing their education. According to a study by Glantsman et al., difficulty with basic needs has been shown to have a detrimental impact on college students’ academic success, mental health and overall well-being.
To address this issue, LARNB has developed a comprehensive approach to support students in need. The organization uses a one-on-one case management system to understand each student’s unique situation and develop a personalized plan to help them secure housing. This approach recognizes that every student’s needs are different, and that a tailored plan is essential to provide effective support.
LARNB work has received recognition from various celebrities, from Oprah Winfrey to the former team captain of the L.A. Rams, Andrew Whitworth. Mayor Karen Bass attended the opening ceremony for the Dunamis House.
“With the state of emergency that was declared around homelessness, Mayor Bass’ efforts have really helped us streamline and expedite the opening of our projects,” said Andrés Cantero, co-founder of LARNB and professor at the USC Gould School of Law. “In about less than a year, we’ve been able to open up these two facilities. And anyone will tell you [that] acquiring, developing and opening a project in less than a year — it’s record speed.”
Cantero also stressed the importance of making sure students are aware of housing resources. He said, even at USC, many students who face housing insecurity aren’t aware of opportunities and resources available.
“A bigger issue is also just the lack of knowledge of the resources that are available. For example, [at] USC, it’s shocking that students are still continuing to experience homelessness when there’s the Trojan Shelter,” Cantero said. “But the best way to counteract that is by being much more public and open about the resources and supporting one another to amplify that message.”