According to a 2014 study by the California Homeless Youth Project, California has the largest population of homeless students in the country and twice the rate of homeless students as the national average.
Data from the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) 2021-2022 progress report shows an estimated 55,420 homeless youth in California. 23% of these youth were aged 12-17.
The instability that accompanies homelessness and housing insecurity often leaves children in these circumstances with few opportunities to thrive academically. As Erica Mohan tutored homeless children in Los Angeles and studied for her master's and doctorate in Educational Studies, she knew she wanted to tackle this issue.
"I wanted to get out into the community, stop writing papers about it, and start addressing some of these issues myself," Mohan said.
And address it, she did.
As soon as she realized that there was no academic support for children who were experiencing housing insecurity in California's Bay Area, Erica decided to act. She created Community Education Partnerships to focus specifically on providing homeless students with tutoring and homework assistance.
CEP does that and more. Their volunteers and staff work to provide school supplies to homeless students in need and offer art, music, and sports enrichment programs with the goal of fostering students’ self-esteem and a sense of belonging.
CEP also acts as an advocate and liaison between homeless families and educational institutions, ensuring that the children in their program have access to transportation and are properly enrolled.
"I believe having somebody show up and say, 'Your education matters to me, I am here to help you,' provide school supplies, guide you, help you with reading and math, can make a huge difference," Erica explained.
But CEP goes further. The organization acknowledges the interconnected challenges faced by homeless children and their parents. To address this, the program extends its support to empower homeless parents by offering assistance in finding stable housing, access to job training and employment opportunities, and guidance on navigating social services.
In addition to direct support for homeless children and parents, CEP emphasizes the importance of building a supportive community. This sense of community is vital in helping homeless families regain stability and confidence. CEP organizes events, workshops, and gatherings that bring together families, volunteers, and supporters to foster connections and a sense of belonging.
CEP's most significant impact lies in its potential to break the cycle of homelessness. By providing educational support and stability to homeless children, the program equips them with the tools they need to succeed academically. This opens doors to future opportunities, reducing the likelihood that they will remain homeless as adults.
For her efforts to provide consistent academic support and mentoring to students facing homelessness and housing insecurity throughout the Bay Area, Erica Mohan received a local Jefferson Award in 2012. She was nominated by our media partner KPIX TV CBS San Francisco.