WHITTIER >> When Rio Hondo College trustee Gary Mendez recently asked his colleagues to address student homelessness, he wasn’t sure if he would reveal why the matter struck a personal note with him.
At Thursday’s special meeting, where the subject was on the agenda, Mendez — who represents Los Nietos, Santa Fe Springs, South Whittier and North Norwalk — decided he would He told those gathered he was homeless as a Rio Hondo student in the ’80s.
“I slept in garages, abandoned cars, in the hills above the college and showered in the gym,” he said. “Back then, I was told I didn’t belong at Rio Hondo College because of my circumstances.”
It was the reason, Mendez said, he first ran for the board in November 1999.
Since January 1, students are allowed to take showers on campus under a state law, Rio Hondo College President Teresa Dreyfuss said, adding that the Student Body Association and the college purchased a freezer to be delivered for a planned campus pantry.
Rio Hondo does not have any data for homeless students, said Mike Munoz, executive dean of counseling and student equity.
However, a survey is being planned, based somewhat on a survey recently released by the Los Angeles Community College District. That query found “more than 60 percent of student respondents experience food insecurity while more than 18 percent of students are homeless in the past year.”
The Los Angeles Community College District 250,000 students a year in more than 36 cities in Los Angeles County at its nine colleges.
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