Enactus Club gets SJVC Hesperia students involved with homeless shelter
It is a sad fact that between 800 to 1,000 people are homeless in the High Desert area. The Enactus Club on the Hesperia campus wants to spearhead an effort for SJVC students to work with the High Desert Homeless Services to help those who want to change their living situation.
The connection was made when Ryan Varela, Business Administration student and Enactus Club President, and the Enactus club visited and toured the shelter. They realized that the shelter had many needs that they might support. Ryan met with Douglas Patch, Club Advisor, and approval was granted for Jimmy Waldron, Director of the High Desert Homeless Services, to conduct a seminar on campus last June.
“Mr. Waldron’s presentation was an eye-opening and inspiring experience for all of the participants,” says Patch.
During his presentation, Mr. Waldron discussed what the shelter does in the community and identified current volunteer needs and opportunities. The facility houses a maximum of 55 people, who are rotated out after 90 days. Individuals and families are housed in rooms of bunk beds, broken down by men, women, teens and children, the largest area sleeping 18-20 people. There are communal living areas, laundry center and a full commercial kitchen.
“Each resident has a list of chores that they rotate, and take turns participating to maintain cleanliness at the shelter,” says Douglas.
An important function of the facility includes an Employment Center where adult residents are required to apply for jobs. They are helped to write resumes, strengthen technological, writing and math skills, and taught important interview points.
Residents are then matched with available jobs – and are required to apply for several jobs each day in order to maintain a place in the shelter. “They are not allowed to turn jobs down,” says Douglas.
The shelter tries to keep children and adolescents on track as much as possible during this time that they are displaced. “The school district brings the school bus right to the homeless shelter so kids can still go to school,” says Douglas.
But there is no mistaking life at the shelter for the comforts of home. “What is so surprising is the population size,” says Ryan. “They’re constantly going over the bed limit and run out of room. They’re doing the best they can with what they have.”
“There are two distinct groups of homeless,” explains Douglas. “There are those people who want to live that lifestyle and not be connected to society in any way, shape or form. Others, mostly families, have lost jobs and homes and had no choice.”
Douglas is philosophical about those who have fallen through the cracks and are looking for a way up and out. “They ran into some bad straights and have to hit the re-set button,” he says. “And that’s what the shelter helps them do.”
The shelter’s goal is to give those people what they need temporarily, so that they might rejoin the work force and secure housing for themselves once again.
The Enactus Club believes that Hesperia students can assist in that process. “We want to create a long-term relationship between the homeless shelter and the school, with constant student involvement,” says Ryan.
They have a vision of how that might work beyond volunteerism.
“If we can make it curriculum-based, it could be ongoing support for the shelter,” says Douglas. “Now, all of a sudden, it is a class project and on a schedule.”
Some suggestions for Business, Medical and Technology program participation include:
- Resume writing assistance
- Interview techniques
- Public speaking instruction
- Budgeting seminars
- Inappropriate medications mix/drug interactions
- Healthy living advice
- Physical defense tactics
Students are at the ready to help the community, while they sharpen their newly-acquired education and skills. “I believe that anyone in the High Desert knows that there is a homeless problem here,” says Ryan. “When someone actually came here and talked about it, it opened our eyes about how big the problem is and made us more passionate about volunteering.”
Hesperia is the campus to watch – and possibly learn from.