Our Stories

Bruin Shelter Opens Doors for Students

About 10,000 students in California identified as being independently homeless on their 2013-2014 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While this number does not capture students who might face homelessness with their families, those without a permanent home, or students experiencing food insecurity, it reveals the significant amount of homeless youth enrolled in school. Poor nutrition and not having a safe space to study or sleep are detrimental to a student's overall academic performance. While pursuing his PhD in mechanical engineering at UCLA, Louis Tse became determined to open a shelter for students that were experiencing homelessness after he surrendered his Westwood apartment and began to live out of his car.

Bruin Shelter, a nonprofit organization committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for college students facing homelessness in Los Angeles, opened its doors Fall of 2016 and is currently the second student operated shelter in the nation. Louis, currently Executive Director of Bruin Shelter, remembers how "when we started on this journey to open an emergency shelter for students experiencing homelessness, we knew it would not be easy." Navigating through the process of applying for tax exemption and incorporating a new nonprofit is no simple task, especially for someone with an unstable living environment. Louis found help through Public Counsel's Community Development Project (CDP), and with the assistance of pro bono attorneys at Latham & Watkins LLP, the path for Bruin Shelter began to take shape.

"The challenges we face have been made considerably less daunting now that we have received pro bono legal services from Latham & Watkins with the help of Public Counsel's placement service," Louis adds. After helping with incorporation and obtaining tax exemption, the pro bono attorneys were enthusiastic about continuing to work with Bruin Shelter and further solidifying its efforts to operate as soon as possible. James Klima at Latham & Watkins worked on preparing a release of liability waiver along with drafting an MOU with Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, both crucial steps necessary for Bruin Shelter to open its doors for students. "With Public Counsel's and Latham & Watkin's help, Bruin Shelter opened in October of 2016. Words really cannot express the gratitude we feel toward these two fine law firms," said Louis.

Currently, Bruin Shelter provides UCLA and Santa Monica College students, ages 18-24, with beds, individual storage lockers, dinner, grab-to-go breakfast, and housing for 90 days with a goal to help students find permanent housing. Bruin Shelter's statement "A home for students, by students" captures the spirit and goal of how Bruin Shelter is paving the way for other universities and institutions to address the issues and misconceptions about student homelessness. The mission of Bruin Shelter is also "to empower shelter volunteers to become social justice leaders, philanthropists, and innovators" and "to be an open-source model for other universities to create student-run shelters." Again, Bruin Shelter goes a step further from offering students emergency housing, as it encourages engagement and discussion about the conditions affecting those who are homeless. Its participation and commitment to working alongside foundations, local government officials, and community-based organizations allow Bruin Shelter to continue its goal of providing a safe and supportive space for students. For more information on Bruin Shelter, please click here.

CDP is also overjoyed to share that Louis received his PhD in May 2016 and accepted a position with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena as part of the design team on the Mars Rover slated for 2020.