Shoppers look through hundreds of pieces of clothing at the student-operated Oasis Pop Up Shop in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Students tackle low-income and homeless problem in Santa Clarita

Global Prep Academy students don’t just want to want to make an impact on the community — they’re already doing it. They’ve collected hundreds of articles of clothing as well as a number of other donations to create The Oasis, a pop-up shop in Santa Clarita for those in need.

On Saturday, The Oasis opened for the day at Global Prep Academy, inviting any low-income or homeless families to come and “shop” through the clothing, toiletries, household essentials, food as well as miscellaneous items for free.

The Oasis began in response to the city of Santa Clarita’s implementation of Ordinance 14, the municipal code amendment intended to prevent people in Santa Clarita from “living” in public spaces, according to co-director Cassidy Bensko.

Shopper Elisa Melgar selects cans of food in the food bank at the student-operated Oasis Pop Up Shop in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

“We have seen that Santa Clarita shelters have been very underfunded, and so we saw this as a way to bridge the gap between the more affluent, suburban community with the people in it that are in need,” Bensko said. “So it was more to supplement the lack of resources.”

Since the project’s founder and original director, Joel Yoon, graduated, Valencia High School students Bensko, junior, and Kaitlin Wilson, senior, have taken over the reins and become co-directors.

“It was four months of collecting donations and three 12-hour days of setup,” Bensko said.

Shoppers are assisted by volunteers as they look through hundreds of pieces of clothing at the student-operated Oasis Pop Up Shop in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Students collected donations from community members and local nonprofits, like Help the Children-Santa Clarita, resulting in more than 4,000 items being available for guests.

The Oasis was set up just like a store, so attendees could shop through each “department” for what they need, and after the first hour, the shelves in the “essentials department” were already almost bare.

Throughout the day, students worked tirelessly to check in guests and assist them to find what they needed while they restocked the shop. Monai Chanon, a Global Prep alum and barber, also providing haircuts to anyone who wanted one.

Barber, Monai Chanon,19, left, cuts a clients hair in “Momo’s Salon” at the student-operated Oasis Pop Up Shop in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Each attendee was paired with a student “personal shopper,” and was allowed to take as many items as they needed or wanted. They were then able to pick up a sack lunch and lemonade or water before leaving.

Stewart McColl was walking by when students approached him with a flyer about the pop-up shop.

“This is a great outreach to the people who are just passing through or they come here and get stuck,” McColl said. “I grew up out here, I live out here, but I’ve been in situations like this. To call it homelessness just (doesn’t explain the situation fully).”

Shoppers sort through dozens of pairs of donated shoes at the student-operated Oasis Pop Up Shop in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Any items left over at the end of the day will either be re-donated to nonprofits or be saved for their next pop-up shop, which they’re hoping to do in the fall right before the new school year begins, according to Wilson.

“We saw how many donations we were able to collect, and if we have that much excess, we can do more,” Wilson said. “Our long-term goal is to become a nonprofit (so that more people can be incentivized to donate for tax deductions).”

For more information about The Oasis, visit joelyoon.wixsite.com/theoasis.

Shoppers look through hundreds of pieces of clothing at the student-operated Oasis Pop Up Shop in Valencia on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

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