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Cerritos College marked the grand opening Thursday of California’s first community college housing development exclusively for students facing homelessness.

The seven townhouses are located a few blocks away from the campus and offer both free and discounted rental options, the college announced in a press release. The development, called The Village, will house students between 18 to 25 years old.

“Meeting the basic needs of our students is a major priority for the District, which includes housing students who face homelessness,” Cerritos College Board President Marisa Perez said in a written statement. “The Village provides students with a secure environment so they can become self-reliant while finishing their educational goals.”

The Village is part of a partnership with Jovenes, Inc., a Los Angeles nonprofit that assists homeless and displaced young adults. Jovenes, Inc. will provide day-to-day management as well as services to help students complete their educational goals and recommendations for alternative housing options when The Village units are at capacity.

“The Village is part of the Cerritos College Board of Trustee’s vision and commitment to address student success by meeting students’ basic needs, including issues of poverty such as housing and food insecurity,” the press release states.

Cerritos College also received support for the project from the City of Norwalk, Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, according to the college.

Homelessness remains an issue across the state’s 115 community college campuses.

A 2019 National #RealCollege Survey, the nation’s largest annual assessment of basic needs security among college students, found that of nearly 86,000 students who participated, 17% were homeless in the previous year, 45% were food insecure in the prior 30 days and 56% were housing insecure in the previous year.

In comparison, of all Cerritos College students who responded to the survey, 15% experienced homelessness in the previous year but only 6% of homeless students utilized housing benefits, 46% experienced food insecurity within 30 days prior to taking the survey, and 16% utilized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

More than half of all Cerritos College students who responded to the survey faced housing insecurity and had difficulty paying rent or a mortgage, according to the college.

Data from the survey found that foster youth, African American/Black, Native American, Southwest Asian, Pacific Islander, Asian American, and undocumented students were at higher risk for facing homelessness.

“We believe the collaboration model we used to develop the Village housing project can be widely replicated across the state to solve the issue of student housing for community college students facing homelessness,” President/Superintendent Dr. Jose Fierro said.