High schoolers work to help homeless people just ahead of the new year

Volunteer Maya Jackson, 17, center, assists Lori Bates, left, as she looks for pants in her size during The Oasis pop up shop event for low income and homeless individuals held on Cinema Drive in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Banding together, students from across the William S. Hart School District collaborated to provide support for homeless people in Santa Clarita through a pop-up shop called “The Oasis” at Global Prep Academy on Saturday.

Led by West Ranch High School senior Joel Yoon, 35 students set up a walkthrough store with clothes, canned food, bathroom and hygiene products and other miscellaneous items on display. Every item, including the 16,000 neatly folded clothes, was donated by residents from across Santa Clarita, Yoon said.

“We want to bridge the gap between the two drastically different socioeconomic classes of Santa Clarita by allowing the higher tier to give back to the lower tier and create some kind of bridge and heal that rift,” he said.

While working on a documentary about Santa Clarita’s homelessness problem, Yoon developed the idea of the pop-up shop following the passage of a municipal code amendment approved by the city council designed to prevent people from “living” in public places. As he heard stories of homeless people sent to Skid Row and bulldozers demolishing homeless encampments, he decided to take action.

Yoon reached out to friends and soon grew a social media presence working with other students and partnered with Help the Children-Santa Clarita

While most of the volunteers served as personal escorts walking around with “customers” helping them carry their goods, others helped to orchestrate the event as a whole. Project manager Christa Boachie joined Yoon and other students because of the group’s message to help.

“It’s honestly eye-opening,” she said. “It’s really fun working with people and just folding everyday. It’s a lot of work, though. Setting this up was a lot of work but it’s honestly worth it. I love it so much.”

One guest, Marina Fermann, decided to visit the pop-up shop with her 3-year-old son Benjamin, after seeing a flyer.

“Right now, I’m just staying at my mom’s, trying to get my own stable place right now,” she said. “So as I see flyers for stuff like this, I just come get extra help because I need it right now. Clothes and food, anything.”

By 5 p.m.,Yoon said over 120 homeless people visited the pop-up shop. With 750 items given out, Yoon said it was up for discussion as to what will be done with the remaining clothes, perhaps to be given out for a future event, while the leftover canned food will be donated to either Bridge to Home or to Skid Row.

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