LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– A shuttered homeless shelter in Lakewood is reopening with the specific purpose to help community college students who are close to, or experiencing homelessness. National studies show one in 10 students in college are housing insecure.
“A good amount of students are not able to afford housing on their own, what so ever,” said Hunter Ambrose, a student and employee at Red Rocks Community College. “Getting enough sleep, having enough food, not having to worry about those things. just that alone can make it hard to go to a job, let alone study.”
When funding dried up for the homeless shelter operated by The Action Center, the Jefferson County nonprofit started looking for a partner to share the cost and reopen the shelter.
“We have this building; they have a growing population of students who don’t have secure housing. It was just a wonderful match,” said Pam Brier, the Executive Director of The Action Center. “School is stressful anyway for the student who isn’t worried about finances, that isn’t worried about where their next meal is. Add those things on top of the demands of studying, working with other students, and you can imagine how difficult it is to succeed. “
Ambrose experienced homelessness five years ago and got back on her feet by living in the exact shelter that will now help her fellow students.
“A lot of times people don’t assume they’re homeless because they’re sleeping on their friend’s couch,” she said. “If you have pride, it’s hard to admit, I am homeless and I need to get help, and once you can do that everything is going to come your way.”
The facility in Lakewood has seen some remodeling and fresh paint since closing. Rooms are small, but they’re a place to sleep and lock up belongings. There are common space bathrooms, laundry, a kitchen, and most importantly a study space with WiFi. Students are expected to start moving in next month.
The Action Center is also bringing other services for residents including health care and financial education. Students will pay a small fee to live for one semester and must have already completed six units at RRCC.
“The school and the Action Center both have been amazing in helping me get to where I’m trying to go,” said Ambrose who is hoping to graduate this semester and continue her education at CU Denver.
She hopes the new residents will benefit the same way she was able to in the same building.
“To create an environment where everyone around you is on the same page, as far as, we’re trying to better ourselves,” Ambrose said.
“We’re really hoping to build a community of support here,” said Brier. “To wrap the students with the type of care and support they need to not only make it through school but to leave school and leave the shelter with the life skills, the connections, the mentoring that they need to launch into the next part of their lives with a better foundation beneath them.”