What it's like to be a homeless college student

While most college freshman were busy figuring out where the library is, and how to get along with their roommate, 23 year-old Jaci Cortez had much bigger concerns. As a homeless student, Cortez was simply trying to figure out when to catch up on sleep, where to shower, and how to do her homework on a park bench. “I had people who were nice enough to let me sleep in their offices at school and it was safe. They would be like okay we will close the door, and I was small enough and I would fit under the desk, and I would just take a nap there.”

Cortez is not alone. A recent study showed that one in five community college students in Los Angeles have dealt with homelessness.

KCRW has been partnering with the youth led community newspaper, Boyle Heights Beat. Reporters Jacqueline Ramírez and Carmen González spent time with Jaci Cortez to learn about how homeless college students make it through. Ramírez spoke with KCRWs Chery Glazer about her story.

23 year-old Jaci Cortez spent her first year at East LA College homeless. She recently got housing through the help of Boyle Heights based Jovenes Inc., which helps young adults who have been in foster care, or homeless with basic resources. Photo credit: Jacqueline Ramírez

Eric Hubbard is the Development Director for Jovenes Inc.. In addition to helping with housing, he tries to get homeless youth back in school. Photo credit: Jacqueline Ramírez

East L.A. College has created support services for students who are homeless or transitioning out of foster care, including making available hygiene kits. Photo credit: Carmen González

During her first year of college, Jaci Cortez relied on East LA College staff to help her cope with being homeless. Mary Contreras runs ELACs Latina Transfer center and made sure Jaci had a couch available when she needed to catch up on sleep. Photo credit: Carmen González

Jaci Cortez used ELACs sports locker rooms as her bathroom and shower when she was homeless during her first year of college. Photo credit: Carmen González