WESTWOOD, Calif. -- One in five Los Angeles Community College District students are homeless and you may not even know who they are.
"I tried to blend in," said Maritza Lopez.
Maritza was one of those students when she was studying at Santa Monica Community College. Now, she has her own place to live and is a junior at UCLA. Looking back to the past year, Lopez says she owes it all to the Bruin Shelter.
The Bruin Shelter is a UCLA campus organization that's run by students for students. It is located at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Santa Monica.
During her time in community college, Lopez found herself with no place to live. Her family was struggling to afford rent and had to leave their apartment. While her siblings and parents bounced around, she was lucky enough to land a spot at the Bruin Shelter.
"I feel like I abandoned my family in some way because I was fortunate enough to have this shelter," said Lopez.
Everyday she would pack up her books and head to the small room at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church. She would retreat to one of ten beds that she called her own.
"I think this was a big space for me. I didn’t have my own bed. This is the first time I had a space or a mattress, some pillows, some comforters, so it was a big step," said Lopez.
At the time, she was used to living in a one-bedroom apartment with about nine people. She said her small section of the bunk bed even felt like her own room.
She doesn’t know where she would be with out her time in the Bruin Shelter. She may have even dropped out of college.
"I didn’t have to worry about where to sleep, where to eat, or about paying rent. It was the amazing part. I saved up money from there," said Lopez.
The money Maritza saved helped her get a permanent place to live.
She even ended up landing a job with Students 4 Students, the organization behind the Bruin Shelter. She wants to give back like the student volunteers did for her.
"I want to give them hope or optimism to say I went through this, you can get out of it and have a good transitional life," said Lopez.
If you are a homeless college student, no matter where you go to school, the Bruin Shelter is there as a resource to provide you with a safe space to live.