In Partnership with 74

LAUSD opens housing complex to combat rising student homelessness

Katie VanArnam | April 16, 2024

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New Sun King Apartment Building (Ben Chapman/LA School Report)

As homeless student numbers rise in LA Unified schools, a 26-unit housing complex for unhoused families was opened last month. 

It took five years for the project to be completed — a timeline that did not go unmentioned by representatives of the organizations involved.  

“Once we know better, we need to do better,” said LAUSD superintendent Alberto Carvalho.  “And this time we need to do better and faster. Sun King is evidence that the impossible can be turned into the inevitable.” 

Carvalho called the partnership “a first of its kind, a difficult partnership. We have learned, and that learning should result in more projects delivered in a shorter period of time.”

Sun King Apartments, located in the San Fernando Valley just half a mile from Fernangeles Elementary School, was created through a partnership between LAUSD, Many Mansions, and Housing Works.

Services for homeless families have become more important than ever as LA Unified reported a 19% increase in student homelessness from the previous school year. As of 2023–2024, there were 15,000 students reported homeless in the district. 

“It was around 2019…when Many Mansions approached us,” said Celina Alvarez, executive director at Housing Works. “There’s so many hoops and hurdles and paperwork and financing and service provision…it takes quite a while.”

Alvarez said the increase in homelessness is due to two things: rent increases and inadequate trauma services. 

“People are getting displaced rapidly and in high numbers,” said Alvarez, “A lot of children are coming from households where parents don’t have the knowledge or resources readily available to understand what their rights are in terms of tenant rights.”

The new apartments were especially good news for Annika, a homeless mother who has been living in unstable conditions for years with her daughter Faith and partner, Angel.

“The years of being homeless moving from couches to park benches to shelters have caused a decline in our emotional, mental, and spiritual health,” said Annika. “Knowing that we will have a permanent home, we were able to start thinking about what the future truly holds for us.”

The housing complex includes gated parking, an outdoor area and kitchen, a laundry room, and a community garden.  The complex will also have direct services for students such as tutoring, school supplies, summer classes, and family gatherings.

This is not the first time LAUSD has partnered with developers to provide housing to teachers and students. In 2017, Los Angeles Unified partnered with BRIDGE, using vacant land just north of Gardena High School Campus to build Sage Park Apartments, a 90-unit complex.

Combined with a lack of mental health services for young people living in poverty it is difficult for students to get the help they need. 

“There’s people with a lot of unresolved trauma, untreated mental illness. And sometimes they’re coping with illicit substances because they’re easier to access than mental health treatment, ” said Alvarez. 

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