The SBVC CalWORKs team recently aimed to highlight the numerous campus resources available to students during Poverty Awareness Month. The department sought to combat clothing insecurities by partnering with the San Bernardino County Child Support Office in Loma Linda, which donated over 500 pieces of work attire. The generous clothing donation resulted in the creation of a clothing closet in the CalWORKs department that is available to students for interviews, job placements, or even job fairs.

It's hard for students to ace their tests and studies when they're hungry with no place to live. For that reason, all students in need were invited out to a resource fair at San Bernardino Valley College to get free food, information on housing and jobs, and access to many academic support services. In recognition of Poverty Awareness Month, the event aimed to create greater awareness of campus support services. Shalita Tillman said it was a first of its kind event, also held in partnership with the County of San Bernardino Child Support Office. “There was health and wellness, food insecurity and housing resources. There was about 20-25 vendors,” said Tillman, CalWORKs & Workforce Development Manager.

Tillman often sees students through the CalWORKs Department, and said that their team is committed to helping all students referred to find the best resources both on and off-campus. Housing and sustainable employment are the main concerns she hears from students. Typically, they may gain seasonal employment right before the holidays, but can be unemployed again and at risk of homelessness by spring. It's an ongoing cycle. Through several campus programs, including CalWORKs Workability III, Workforce Development and the Employment Development Department, she sees over 600 students at the campus. That's not counting students coming from outside referrals. Food and shelter must be the first priority, she said.

She keeps students aware of upcoming job fairs, and she turns to many community resource partners for assistance, which may include homeless shelters. “They may not want to do that, but I'd rather see them in a shelter than out on the street. We just work our way up from there,” she said. Most students she sees do not have any fallback or support at home from their family. Some students have fought through a lifetime of poverty. “Some might be in their 30's or 50's, from a background where they never had any guidance,” she said. “They're trying to do something better. They don't know where to go and what questions to ask.” The SBVC campus has a fully stocked food pantry, although not open daily. It is available during designated hours when students can receive a free food bag when needed. Other programs also provide meal vouchers to help food-insecure students get a hot meal from the cafeteria. She said the CalWORKs campus office supports students as part of an ongoing team effort.

They hope to inspire students to stick with the programs and services, and to know that help is available for whatever their circumstance. “We want students to see there is light at the end of the tunnel. I always share with students to know that the road sometimes gets bumpy, we experience turbulence. However, just hold on and stay persistent, and it will pay off,” she said.