Story by Brian Woods
In support of National Poverty Awareness Month, Victor Valley College partnered with San Bernardino County to host an informational screening and panel discussion calling attention to intergenerational poverty and discussing strategies to combat it.
The event, held on January 23 in the Student Activities Center, was a collaborative effort between community partners, county representatives and VVC staff. The panel sought to provide information and resources on combating homelessness and poverty both on and off campus.
County Departments of Behavioral Health, Child Support Services, Public Health, Transitional Assistance and Veterans Affairs were present, as well as the 2020 Census Bureau and local entities such as High Desert Homeless Services.
VVC Superintendent/President Dr. Daniel Walden began the event with a message about community and support.
“I think most, if not all of us, have food on our table and a bed to lay in at night… but there are people who do not have enough.. This makes this kind of event so much more important,” Walden said. “Some people just don’t quite have the height to reach the apple sitting atop the tree. We need to provide that lift for them.”
Shortly after, a CBS News Sunday Morning segment entitled “Homeless College Students: Out in the Cold” was screened, which highlights the severity, statistics and real-life testimonies of homeless college students across the country.
According to the segment, college students are the fastest growing demographic impacted by poverty today. An estimated 68,000 students claim to be homeless on their FAFSA, according to Federal Student Aid reports.
During the panel discussion after the screening, county department representatives spoke on their current efforts and overall missions to combat homelessness. Recurring topics included campus outreach programs, child care, housing initiatives, nutritional education and transitional assistance.
Focus then shifted to the different networks on campus meant to provide stability, support and resources for at-risk or low-income students. This included the Extended Opportunities Programs and Services, Next-Up foster youth program, Veterans Resource Center and “The Peak” food pantry.
“We were able to open (the food pantry) with the help of departments across campus … We are giving away around 140 packs of food a day,” Homeless Youth Liaison and Financial Aid specialist Elaine Navarrete said. “It’s open to all students who are enrolled… It’s something they really needed.”
The discussion concluded with representatives emphasizing the importance of risk prevention and resource education, including behavioral, mental and nutritional health. A Q&A portion followed, allowing audience members to engage with county representatives regarding community concerns and ways to strengthen support on campus.
To learn more about resources available both on and off campus, students can contact Elaine Navarrete at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on resources available through San Bernardino County programs can be found by visiting www.SBCounty.gov.