Santa Clara County has declared November, National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Nearly a quarter of the homeless population in the county are college students.
On Monday, local politicians, non-profit leaders and other agencies held a news conference making a commitment to house 100 students in 100 days.
“When we bring all those people together our hope is that it becomes a learning collaborative where after 100 days we have a system of care, coordinated system for all our colleges to assure that no one is homeless while attending school,” said Sparky Harland, CEO at Bill Wilson Center, one of the leading agencies in the nation that provide services to at-risk youth.
Elizah Deliz was a homeless student just a few years ago and is now working with the Bill Wilson Center to give his input on how to help other young people like himself. He says that being homeless was one of the most difficult experiences of his life.
“I have very sad memories of saying hello to people just to hear a hello back and nobody would say hello,” he said. “A lot of people I’ve seen not make it and I’ve even had people die in the process.”
Through sheer determination, Elijah got himself out of homelessness, but the struggle is real. Right now, he’s paying more than $2,000/month for rent, working two jobs and going to school.
“My goal is to be able to help one homeless youth, you know,” said Deliz.
The 100-day challenge aims to find other struggling students, connect them with resources, track their progress and make sure they don’t fall through the cracks.
“No child, no young adult, no student should live in a car or under an overpass especially while they are working fulfilling their dreams and starting their careers,” said Supervisor Susan Ellenberg who vowed to house a student with her spare bedroom. She encourages others in the county to do the same.
“We have a lot of ideas, stay tuned this is only the very beginning of what we’re going to do,” said Harland.