Tag: homelessness

Nov 18

The Most Rewarding Volunteer Work You’ve Never Heard Of

Guest post by School on Wheels Ambassador Victor Maldonado

There are enough children without homes in Los Angeles to fill Dodger Stadium. Yet, when we think of homelessness, children aren’t who we typically imagine. With over 65,000 students without homes in Los Angeles County alone, why does child homelessness go so grossly unnoticed? The answer is simple: out of sight, out of mind. These are children who are living in shelters, motels, group foster homes, vehicles, and on the streets. The common thread that connects these children is a lack of consistent education. 

I am proud to volunteer with an organization that bridges these gaps in education, giving children experiencing homelessness a fighting chance at a stable life—School on Wheels. Their approach may seem modest: tutor a child for one hour per week. However, the impact on that child’s life is incalculable—it provides these children with the structure and consistency they need. That hour reiterates to them that they aren’t forgotten, that they do matter, and that they can change their circumstances.

And once a child believes in themselves, the hope and optimism they carry is truly inspirational. In January 2018 a student of mine was struck in the crossfire of a drive-by. In the weeks following, I recall trying to be sympathetic to his condition by telling him we could just play games until he felt better. Knowing he had the SATs coming up, he responded, “Games won’t get me into college. We’ll work on math sections.” To contextualize things, this was a student who, not even a year prior, would constantly vocalize that he might as well “pick out a box to live in now” because he felt he had no chance of attending college. It was at that precise moment that I realized how much of an impact that hour a week can have on the self-esteem of a child in need.

School on Wheels is the only non-profit organization in Southern California that focuses on the education of children experiencing homelessness. As such, its’ success, as well as the success of the children it serves, is directly related to its number of volunteers. Sadly, that number is often limited by people’s misconceptions on whether they’re “qualified” to volunteer. In reality, the only obstacle is a person’s willingness to volunteer. 

Regardless of your age, background or level of education, your mere presence in a child’s life can be transformative. They will never forget that someone cared enough to show up once a week during the most turbulent time of their lives. Get started today.

Jul 11

NBC4 and Telemundo 52 Kick Off Supporting Our Schools Donation Drive to Support School on Wheels

NBC4 and Telemundo 52 Los Angeles have launched the return of Supporting Our Schools donation drive from July 11-19. The stations are teaming up with Ralphs and Food 4 Less to provide homeless students in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties with essential school supplies they need before school starts in the fall.

The public is invited to make a $1 or more donation at check-out when shopping at their local Ralphs and Food 4 Less supermarket – visit Ralphs.comand Food4Less.com to find a location near you. All proceeds will go to support School on Wheels!

Tune in to NBC4 and visit NBCLA.com/SupportingOurSchools for news stories about the need for school supplies in underserved communities.

NBC4 will also be reporting live at the following Ralphs locations – stop by to make your donation and meet the news team:

• July 11 – 2930 E 4Th St., Long Beach, CA 90814

• July 12 – 14049 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

• July 18 – 12051 Euclid Street, Garden Grove, CA 92840

• July 19 – 14919 Whittier Blvd, Whittier, CA 90605

Also, follow the effort on social media @NBCLA using hashtag #SupportingOurSchools.

Nov 28

Whether home is a van, a motel or a garage, L.A.’s suburban poor children learn to survive

Thousands of families experience homelessness on any given night in America, leaving many children stricken by the grief of instability and unpredictability. There is a saying in Skid Row, “homeless but not hopeless.” But where does your hope come from if you’re the mother of four young, energetic children crammed in a motel room suitable for one or two people? How do you survive days when your kids go to bed hungry? Where does your hope come from when you’re an 8-year-old child whose only concept of home includes a revolving door?

A recent four-part series by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez on child poverty, especially as it relates to education, provides a painfully clear window into the lives of these children. The short film that starts the series is especially powerful, and a must watch for anyone who wants to understand the daily stress and trauma these children face.

I wish we lived in an America where homelessness didn’t exist; where kids could go to school without worrying about where they will sleep at night or if they will have enough food; where kids wouldn’t take on the burdens of adulthood. An America where kids could be kids – laughing, running, jumping, learning – the way they were meant to be.

So what can we do? We can start by speaking up, advocating for change, and accepting nothing less. Our friends need us, and we must deliver.

To view/read the full series:

Part 1: Hidden in L.A. suburbia, wrenching poverty preys on children and destroys dreams
Part 2: For the principal with the most homeless students in L.A., the reality of poverty is personal
Part 3: Whether home is a van, a motel or a garage, L.A.’s suburban poor children learn to survive
Part 4: For children trapped in poverty, breaking free is getting harder

Dec 4

Mayor Garcetti visits Skid Row Learning Center

School on Wheels students who attend our after-school learning center were treated to a surprise visit from Mayor Garcetti yesterday

Mayor Eric Garcetti visited School on Wheels’ Skid Row Learning Center (600 E 7th Street, Los Angeles) to find out more about the center.  The children knew that someone from the city was visiting and had prepared questions in advance but did not know that it was their mayor who would be the VIP visitor!

Questions from students to the mayor… How do we stop trash going into the ocean? Where do people that are on the street go when there is an earthquake?  What are sidewalks so [sic] rumboled? How can we stop graffiti? Why do people have guns? And why do people live on the streets?

When asked by a student “Why are shelters used instead of homes,” the mayor said,
“We want shelters to be a place where people go in an emergency, not where you grow up.”

Sadly for the students at School on Wheels, many are growing up in shelters. The mayor offered hope by saying that they were building extra housing and that homelessness was his priority, but he noted these things take time.

The mayor also talked to the children about libraries, parks, water and the 2028 Olympic games. He told the students that all sports for kids would be free in the city and that they could be the next Olympians.

After a tour of the center, the mayor was interviewed by local media and was then whisked away for his next appointment.

“The kids, staff and volunteers at the center were thrilled to have met the mayor, “ said Catherine Meek, Executive Director. “Our students are really smart and they kept him honest with the questions they asked him!”

View PDF Press Release



Aug 1

Poverty to Professional

We first met Angela Sanchez when she and her father were living in an emergency shelter in Pasadena.  Angela, a 16 year old at the time, requested a tutor for one of the most difficult subjects – Calculus.  Despite her difficult living situation, Angela graduated high school with 4.23 GPA and went on to pursue a degree at UCLA in history with a double minor in education and English. She continued on to receive her Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential, Elementary Education and Teaching, as well as certification from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Angela founded the School on Wheels club at UCLA, recruiting new tutors from the school to volunteer with our program, served on our scholarship committee, and continues to speak on behalf of School on Wheels and advocate for homeless students.

Angela has started a weekly blog about her time as a homeless student. We will be posting the link to her blog every week. Join us in following her journey.

Story Time
August 1, 2016
“Wait, she KILLS George?! You can’t do that!”
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The Homeless Equation: Gentrification and Unaffordable Housing
July 26, 2016
It’s changing in ways that mostly comes with phrases like “up and coming” and “improving” and “being more walkable.”
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The Secret of Outstanding Volunteers: How to Really Help Out at a Homeless Shelter
July 18, 2016
Having been homeless as well as having been engaged in regular community service through high school and college, I can thoroughly describe both sides of the volunteer experience at a homeless shelter…
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College Acceptance and Decisions
July 12, 2016
Everyone knows the season when college acceptance letters materialize in mailboxes (both physical and digital)…
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College Costs HOW Much?! Scholarships and Financial Aid 101
July 4, 2016
I give motivational talks to students in grades 7-12…
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June 22, 2016
If home is where the heart is, then I lived at my father’s side…
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Criminalizing Homelessness
June 16, 2016
Being homeless is a tremendously difficult position to navigate…
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5 Tips for Homeless Teens Writing College Essays
June 6, 2016
Personal statements: That one section of the college application where you really do have to put your soul into writing…
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May 31, 2016
There is nothing more a student who is struggling through homelessness wants than to feel normal…
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The Funny Post
May 25, 2016
It was a bright, cheery Sunday morning in May 2008…
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Faces of Homelessness
May 16, 2016
Today’s post comes courtesy of the Social Work Degree Center, who provided us with this insightful infographic that discusses the most common causes and risks behind chronic homelessness…
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Mothers in Homelessness
May 12, 2016
This week’s post comes in the wake of a widely observed, and usually beloved, holiday: Mother’s Day…
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School on Wheels, Inc.
May 1, 2016
The life-blood of any nonprofit worth its salt is its community of volunteers…
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College Apps: Technology and Homelessness
April 26, 2016
“At least I’m not running low on minutes. Hey? Hello? You there?”
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The Study Sanctuary
April 19, 2016
My ten o’clock ritual at the Pound is one I still reflect on with mixed feelings…
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Crunch Time
April 11, 2016
Test anxiety’s culminating and perhaps most highly profiled form for many high school students is none other than the Scholastic Aptitude Test…
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Better Stay Healthy: Dental Care
April 5, 2016
At the end of 2015, I saw a dentist for the first time in five years
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Better Stay Healthy: Food (In)Security
March 30, 2016
Winter break of my senior year had just started and I felt like my stomach was trying to claw its way through my naval…
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Better Stay Healthy: Sleep and Homelessness
March 21, 2016
I never fell asleep in class until I lost my home…
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Better Stay Healthy
March 14, 2016
If being homeless is akin to being in a burning house – where everything is going to pot and you can’t think straight under all the pressure – being sick while homeless is like having a helicopter dump gasoline all over the burning house…
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Avoiding Pitfalls: Being Homeless and Female
March 7, 2016
Last week’s post discussed age as a factor of my experience and how I was fortunate to have been in my teens while homeless…
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Counting Blessings: How Lucky I was to be a Homeless Teenager
February 29, 2016
At the Pound, when I looked around at the other kids I knew I was “old.”
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Shelter Rules
February 22, 2016
“This is like being in prison, but you haven’t done anything wrong.”
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Pound Puppies
February 17, 2016
It didn’t take long for my dad and me to come up with a euphemism for our new place of residence…
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Teen Counseling
February 9, 2016
At this point in the blog, we’ve established that homelessness is stigmatized in the US…
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Admitted!…To a Shelter
February 1, 2016
I was born on a Wednesday in early February…
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8 Necessities to Surviving and Escaping Homelessness
January 25, 2016

Last week’s post focused on more social and psychological skills related to slogging out of homelessness…
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Secrets to Survival
January 19, 2016

When you lose your home, you lose a lot: privacy, security, consistency, and a sense of control over your circumstances…
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A Wolf and No Door
January 12, 2016

The title of this week’s post comes from the old saying, “To keep the wolf from the door.”
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January 4, 2016

Humor me for a moment: Let’s say you’re homeless…
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Home for the Holidays
December 22, 2015

I double-clutched posting this piece so close to the Christmas holiday given the general weightiness of the blog…
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Finding Shelter
December 8, 2015

One of the most popular reasons circulating for why Los Angeles, and Southern California by extension, is experiencing a surge in homelessness is chalked up to our modest weather…
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November 24, 2015

This is perhaps the hardest entry for me to describe, so I’m glad my sixteen-year-old self did most of the grunt work…
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Why P2P?
November 20, 2015

In the United States, November is marked by national holiday that celebrates what we have; traditionally, this includes good food, family and friends to share it with, and a home to enjoy it all within…
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