Fellow: Charity Castro
Host: Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity
Project: Prioritizing Homeless Students in Los Angeles
As the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity Policy Advisor Fellow, Charity Castro’s project focused on prioritizing families in the Motel Voucher Program in Los Angeles. The program gives individuals and families vouchers for 28-day stays at local motels as an alternative to homeless shelters. Specifically, she analyzed the gaps and weaknesses in the policies that made up LA’s Motel Voucher Program in order to better address the needs of families and students.
“[The Policy Advisor Fellowship] gave me insight into the policy making process from a municipal perspective; I was able to see how multiple organizations work together across our district and how change is made at the city level,” she shares.
Through her work, Charity learned that students lose approximately 3 months of educational development everytime they are forced to move schools and that many students whose motel vouchers placed them too far from their school were losing valuable educational time.
She worked with organizations such as Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to gather program data, coordinate efforts, and conduct outreach.
“I feel revitalized knowing that California, and Los Angeles in particular, are constantly pushing to remove systemic barriers for our students,” says Charity.
As a fellow, she conducted policy research into the historical and policy context in which families were functioning, helping the team better understand gaps in their existing homeless policies. She also engaged in field research to better understand students’ needs, including visiting communities and motels, and walking common paths that students might take from their motel to school. They also engaged experts and stakeholders that work closely with transient families to better understand the barriers and weaknesses in existing programs. Finally, once they had a firm grasp of these elements we synthesized important data points into an interactive map to strengthen outreach and localize our resources.
“My time as a Policy Advisor Fellow at the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity helped me envision a clear pathway into a career in policy and advocacy. It gave me valuable insight into the political and social nuances at play in the policy-making cycle and the skills necessary for me to navigate them successfully. I feel confident, inspired, and well prepared to begin a new path in policy.”
Get your foot in the policy and advocacy door — gain experience tackling real-world challenges impacting students. Apply for the Policy Advisor Fellowship —a six-month, part-time program in which a LEE member serves as a policy advisor to a senior LEE member.
Interested in hosting a fellow? Find out how.