High school students work together to fight homelessness

Members of SCV Urge make sandwiches for Thursday's meal at Bridge to Home on Wednesday, June 15, 2017. Courtesy of Dylan Edwards

High school students in the Santa Clarita Valley are working together to stop homelessness in the area through their newly-formed cooperative social action project.

Named SCV Urge, the group of more than 20 high school students from Global Prep Academy are working together to educate citizens on homelessness and initiating progress through a variety of initiatives in the area.

“We created SCV Urge because we feel that the growing issue of homelessness in Santa Clarita is unknown amongst most members of the community and especially high school students,” said SCV Urge member Dylan Edwards, a senior at West Ranch High School.  “Our club includes students from every high school in this district and of all grade levels.”

Students involved in the program hope to make a difference in the community by educating people about the “never ending cycle of poverty and homelessness” and to remove the stigmas about individuals who are experiencing homelessness.

Sarah Kouchak, a senior at West Ranch High School, said she hopes to inform others about how people can become homeless, whether it is through addiction, mental illness or personal struggles.

“They [people] don’t realize the harshness of their lives that forced them to live on the streets or the harshness of the system that forces them to stay there,” Kouchak said.  “The complexity of homelessness has motivated us to provide resources for each aspect of it – shelter, clothes and food.”

Currently students involved with SCV Urge are working to raise $5,000 for Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley to support its emergency hotel service for homeless families they are unable to house.

Using a GoFundMe page (www.gofundme.com/scvurge) the group is hoping to raise the $5,000 needed to support the program which provides motels for families when the shelter is full.

“So far we have raised $2,000 of our $5,000 goal for the local non-profit,” Edwards said.

The students are also holding a clothing and essentials drive to assemble into care packages for organizations like Bridge to Home and Family Promise.  They will also use clothes from the drive to host a “dignified shopping experience” at Global Prep Academy.

“We want to provide a dignified shopping experience for the homeless,” Kouchak said.  “This is where we will nicely hang the clothes up on racks, let them shop around, and offer any help—just like a real store.”

Members of SCV Urge make sandwiches for Thursday’s meal at Bridge to Home on Wednesday, June 15, 2017. Courtesy of Dylan Edwards

In the future, members of SCV Urge also hope to provide a weekly meal service for those experiencing homelessness on days when other food banks cannot serve them during the summer.

“We are looking to utilize food that is expired from supermarkets but still good to eat,” Edwards said.

Through their involvement with SCV Urge, both Edwards and Kouchak said they learned that homelessness is not always visible and that the issue is a complex one.

“This project has taught me that homelessness in Santa Clarita isn’t always visible,” Kouchak said.  “However, I will not forget about those living in this privileged city who have no privileges. Homelessness is an extremely complex problem with no easy solution.”

Edwards said he also learned that even some high school students are homeless and make an effort to hide their struggles in order to fit in.

“Some may not be homeless in the traditional sense but are forced to split up from their family and stay at a friend’s house because they have no home of their own to go to,” he said.  “What people don’t realize is that they pass by homeless people every day in Santa Clarita, but they do not realize they are homeless.”

Additional student members of the program include: Josh Paik, Nathan Byrd, Jaden Nguyen, Tiffany Santillana, Kayla Amara, Andrew Chae, Hannah Park, Jean Lee, Max Lin, Andrew Seong, Cyrus Young, Marquessa Bryce, Jasmyn Choi, Mithara, Phoebe Choi, Brandon Waldau, Danny Padres, Nathaniel Medina and Kayla May Jamarillo 

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