HELPING STUDENTS HELP STUDENTS
At the age of 27, Louis Tse lived in his car to save money while completing his doctoral studies bat the University of California, Los Angeles. His kitchen: a duffel bag stuffed with bottled water and non-perishable foods. Family photos adorned the backseat windows. At night, Louis parked wherever he found an open WiFi
In March 2015 at UCLA, Louis and his classmate Luke Shaw discovered other students sleeping in spaces that were not meant for sleeping: classrooms, student lounges, and cars in
the parking lot. The slow, yet eventual realization that their peers were trying to reach their academic dreams despite experiencing homelessness, suffering in isolation, sat in the dresser
of their minds until it could not any longer.
Within nine months, Louis and Luke founded Students 4 Students, a shelter run entirely by UCLA students, to give their fellow students a safe place to sleep and food to eat. UCLA
medical and social welfare students provide health, social, and wrap-around services. Because they were students themselves, they understood first-hand the thousands of opportunities in a
lifetime that are at stake between gaining a diploma, or falling just short.
We caught up with Louis to chat about S4S and the progress they’ve made since receiving funding from the SAM Initiative.
What sort of impact has the funding from SAM Initiative allowed S4S to do?
That’s what has always struck me about homeless students: they study and work equally as hard as other students, but they just eat and sleep less. The SAM Initiative has been a large reason for our shelter’s and residents' success. Each member has shown a supreme belief in each resident; that they might be helping a MacArthur genius award winner, someone who's majoring in the same field they studied, or someone who might save a life.
The SAM Initiative has an ever-steadfast spirit of innovation and community-building that inspires others who believed their efforts mattered, and have continued to change our community for the better.
Personally, the mentors and friends I've had the good fortune to bond with have taught me invaluable lessons that I won't soon forget.
Where do you expect to obtain additional funding for the shelter on a short-term and long-term basis?
The ripple effect of support from the SAM Initiative, and especially Mindy Freedman, is powerful and has connected us with like-minded people who share a common goal of helping vulnerable young people achieve their potential. We've always relied on strength in numbers; individual donors and family
foundations have kept our doors open to young people who need it. To paraphrase Ovid, this challenge of providing a home to young people who do not have one will be light if we carry it willingly - and carry it together. It is the light from many lamps that has made Students 4 Students possible.
How do you envision S4S growing?
We are excited that many students across the nation have reached out to us, actively seeking to help the
most vulnerable in their communities by starting a shelter of their own. A shelter for students at Pasadena City College will open within the next year!
New research on campus hunger and homelessness has awakened college leaders and policymakers to an uncomfortable reality: many students are struggling just to survive. According to recent studies, 5% of all UC students reported experiencing homelessness in 2017, 10% of Cal State students, and 20% of community college students in LA, experienced homelessness this past year.
This is the untold crisis of college hunger and homelessness.
Organizations like Students 4 Students are addressing many of the critical issues facing the greater Los Angeles area and beyond. The partnership between SAM and S4S is a glowing example of the power of collaborative giving to foster lasting change.