Back when Louis Tse, 27, was completing his doctorate at the University of California, Los Angeles, he was forced to live in his car to save money. At night, Tse parked wherever he found an open Wi-Fi network so he could do homework.
Now a thermal engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Tse told his inspiring story to Business Insider.
In October 2016, Tse and his former classmate Luke Shaw opened up a run shelter called Students for Students, in order to help young people who are experiencing homelessness because of the significant costs of higher education. Their organization welcomes college students from the Los Angeles area, providing them with a safe place to eat, sleep, socialize and study during the academic year.
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Unlike traditional shelters, which use a lottery-based system to fill beds, Students for Students interviews applicants and offers a place to stay for up to six months.
Tse believes that having a safe home makes the difference for a young person who organizes his time between school, job and social life. “Knowing that you have a stable place to stay helps you be more stable,” Tse said.
Tse and Shaw were inspired by a similar shelter for young adults at Harvard University. They won a $20,000 financing from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and asked for donations (food, clothes, blankets and toiletries).
A similar recent study led by the University of Wisconsin revealed that an impressive number of college students in the U.S. are living without permanent housing. Of the 33,000 students surveyed, about half of them can’t afford the cost of living.
“We’re all in school because we value education and we know that getting a diploma is necessary if you’re to open doors for yourself in life,” Tse said. “That’s the mission that drives us. There are students who are facing a variety of life circumstances, and we want to help them get to that point.”