LBCC Helps Students With Resources, Food, Rent
By Dianne Anderson
When Tamara Lincoln first saw the statistics on the high level of homeless students at Long Beach City College, she was shocked, but she was not surprised.
She had been there and done that, but even worse, she had to go through it alone with her kids.
At the time, she was also a part-time employee at the college. It was difficult and stressful to have to figure everything out by herself. Her son was starting high school and her daughter was disabled.
They were forced to move because the landlord refused to address black mold.
“Imagine a student having to do this stuff, keep their grades up, or have to out in the rain, sleeping in their car, or they don’t have a car, or they have a disabled kid and sleeping on the couch,” she said.
One in six, or 16%, of LBCC students, are housing insecure or homeless.
About ten years ago, Lincoln said she was frustrated and overwhelmed. She met with Long Beach Community College District Trustee Dr. Virginia Baxter, and ranted that the system was messed up. She asked how could college alumni and an employee be homeless and without help.
In response, Baxter told her that she seemed to be the ideal person to start as a new position as the LBCC Homeless Liaison Officer, which she’s been doing ever since.
Circumstances had thrown Lincoln and her family into a tailspin. She was able to stay in temporary living conditions and couch-surfed until she could get into another apartment.
But even before she started as the homeless liaison, she always naturally directed students to resources, much of which came out of her own experience. Today the program outreach has grown and no student needs to be without food or housing.
Lincoln said she is on call 24/7, ready to hook students up with resources, the kind that was not readily available to her back then.
“When I started with the group, we were slowly finding out that students were homeless, or couch-surfing or had a basic need. It’s hard when you have to put your pride aside and ask for help,” she said.
Lately, the campus Basic Needs Center is expanding. Students are referred to connect with her, and she links them with hotels, or food, or whatever services they need. Part of the lag in the process is the perception of housing insecurity. Often, students don’t see themselves as homeless.
“If you’re living house to house or even if you’re staying in hotels, you are homeless,” said Lincoln, who graduated from LBCC in 2012, and majored in early childhood education.
Today, she works out of two offices, the College’s Learning and Academic Resources department and outreaches to LBCC’s unhoused students, to direct students to the right help. Their group also distributes food bags to students, and recently, they were able to help 12 students with vouchers to catch up with the rent.
Many students don’t ask for help because they don’t think anything is available, she said, or they don’t know where to find information and resources.
Part of it may be a cultural association in the Black community. Growing up, she was always told that whatever happens in the family stays in the family. It was out of fear that the government would remove the kids from the home if there was any hint of housing insecurity.
Last week, the college launched its Helping Homeless Students Fund website, and held a webinar to spotlight outreach from Lincoln, and several others at the college who are promoting basic needs programming.
The virtual event was held by LBCC board trustees Dr. Virginia Baxter, Sunny Zia, and Interim Superintendent-President Dr. Mike Muñoz.
“Housing is a challenge in Long Beach and our surrounding cities. It’s an even bigger challenge for community college students who are often balancing school with multiple jobs and family,” said Dr. Muñoz. “[The] town hall brings this issue to light, and the new website will make it easier for our community to help us in our fight to help our most vulnerable students.”
Lincoln said the time is right, and the system must now shed light on how many students are homeless. It’s been going on for a long time.
“I was raised don’t ask for help, don’t put yourself in the system, that’s the part that gets you,” she said. “If you worked a [hamburger flipper job], you put into the system. Now go get CalWORKs and get GR so that you can find another job,” she said.
To connect with Tamara, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Helping Homeless Students Fund, see www.LBCC.edu/hhs-fund
To watch the LBCC Town Hall on helping homeless students, see www.YouTube.com/LongBeachCityCollege