LOS ANGELES — At just 19 years old, Jahmar Thompson has faced homelessness twice.

His most recent experience, before accepting temporary shelter in Wilmington, had him sleeping on a San Pedro park table as he tried to figure out his next step.

What You Need To Know

  • The Salvation Village provides about 75 individuals private shelter, meals and security

  • About 25 units are currently reserved for Los Angeles Harbor College students experiencing housing insecurities

  • About 60% of LAHC students reported housing insecurities during the COVID-19 pandemic

  • LAHC plans to extend college enrollment to all taking shelter on-site

"When I slept outside at the park table, that was the time that humbled me the most," Thompson said. "That’s when I learned about myself, like who I really am and what I really want to do."

Thompson had been previously living with family in the San Pedro area, but the loss of his brother and a rough family life led him to living outside. That’s why, at first, he wasn’t sure if he’d take the shelter he was offered.

"I just didn’t think that it was real," he said. "I didn’t think that people would actually help me because of what I’ve been going through in life. So I didn’t think people would help me out of the kindness of their heart, you know."

After spending three months on a park table, Thompson finally had his own space to put his head down at the new Salvation Village, where about 75 individuals are offered private pallet shelters with air conditioning, meals and security.

About 25 units are reserved for unhoused Los Angeles Harbor College students like Thompson. The site, which opened its doors in May and is managed by the Salvation Army, came to fruition through a collaboration between Councilman Joe Buscaino's office and LAHC.

The shelters are located right across from campus where Luis Dorado, the community college's interim president, believes it can help students — about 60% of whom reported housing insecurities during the COVID-19 pandemic — focus on their education.

"I’m hoping that students take full advantage of what we have to offer," said Dorado. "Our motto at Harbor College is that 'education changes everything,' and we truly believe in that. Our goal is to assist the students to become self-sufficient and provide them with that pride of being self-sufficient."

Thompson, who played football in high school, is already looking forward to getting back in the game and exploring an education in audio production. It’s a dream that can soon become a reality, he explained, because he has a temporary space to call his own.

"It means a lot to me because it lets me, you know, collect all my thoughts and lets me gather myself and my future," he said. "Anything I want to do, it’s right here in this room. I just think about how I’m going to do it, and I just do it because I don’t have no distractions."

All it took was a safe space for Thompson to put his life in perspective. Now, he’s hoping that as the fall semester begins, it’ll only be the start of a bright future ahead.