Homeless in college: Woman, university helping struggling students at Cal State Long Beach

The season of giving is year-round for those most passionate about helping those in need.

Long Beach resident Shirley Raines runs the Beauty 2 The Streetz nonprofit organization that provides makeovers to women experiencing homelessness. She also brings food and clothes to those who reside along Skid Row.

Her spirit of giving doesn’t end there.

Now, she’s also helping unsheltered college students at California State University, Long Beach, saying there are levels to poverty that include sleeping on a couch, also known as "couch-surfing," to sleeping in one’s car.

Raines said 42% of students at Cal State Long Beach are food insecure and 12% of the student body struggles to find housing. In the Fall 2022 semester, the university's Basic Needs Department helped move 40 students from out of their cars and into homes with emergency funds and food.

Long Beach resident Shirley Raines has made it her life's mission to help those in need.

While they are doing everything they can to help, those who work in the department said the problem is becoming worse.  

"We started to hear from students that they’re making choices like ‘Do I pay for rent or do I pay for food? Do I pay for my books or do I pay my rent?’ A lot of time when students make those choices, they pay for rent, so they don’t get evicted," Danielle Munoz, the Director of Basic Needs at CSULB explained.

By making that choice, students are often left without money for books, transportation, or food.

"They start to feel like they don’t belong here," Munoz added.

Munoz and Raines want students to know that even during the most challenging times, they are cared for and help is available.

"There is a stigma that college students are broke, but nobody really does anything about it," CSULB Student Body President Isaac Julian said. "Some of them don’t like to speak up and that’s totally understandable."

As a leader, Julian speaks up for them by sharing his story.

"I want to make sure that students know that they’re not alone. That you can make the most of your situation and you can still achieve great things," Julian said.

Raines’ nonprofit organization stocked the campus pantry, so students have access to free groceries and her food truck serves hot meals to students free of charge. In addition, she gave students a bag filled with essentials.

Raines knows some question the importance of beauty and hygiene items, but she’s quick to point out from job interviews to internships to even dating, it’s critical to keep up with one’s personal hygiene.

Plus, as she says, "how you look affects how you feel."

Raines knows firsthand how it feels to struggle and will continue to do all she can to help those in need.