Students For Students Shelter. | S4S Facebook

This Homeless Shelter Is Run By Students, For Students

A college kid who once lived out of his car co-founded the home in 2016.

Think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to build a homeless shelter? Tell that to Louis Tse, a UCLA grad and thermal engineer at NASA. Tse partnered with former classmate Luke Shaw to open Students for Students (previously Bruin Shelter), a nine-bed shelter in Los Angeles that provides free housing and meals to college students.

Tse, who currently works in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, conceived of the idea after living in his car while finishing school at UCLA. After winning a $20,000 grant from the university’s Geffen School of Medicine, Tse and Shaw solicited community donations and opened their doors. According to a recent Business Insider article, Tse believes stable housing translates into stability in all parts of life, and thinks that an all-student shelter provides benefits traditional shelters don’t. He says:

“Having a home base goes a long way for a young person juggling school, a job, and a life. The city’s resource-starved shelters take in people of all ages, some of whom are combatting severe mental illnesses; it’s hard for struggling college students to fit in there.”
Tse and Shaw. | The Daily Bruin

Although the shelter is a volunteer-only operation, it models its structure after a for-profit business enterprise. Tse serves as executive director; Shaw acts as the shelter’s co-president alongside Lauren Dy, who is also the shelter’s program director. Two VPs and and an administrative director round out the executive team, which works in tandem with a resource team, an advocacy team, and an 11-person advisory board of directors.

Local and national organizations including UCLA, Dasani and Whole Foods have offered their support to the shelter, which opened in October. These sponsors and the all-volunteer staff allow S4S to operate with very little overhead and focus on providing the best possible environment for its student residents.

In lieu of a lottery system, S4S opens applications seasonally and students who win a spot are allowed to stay in the shelter for up to six months. The shelter’s website offers additional details:

“Our place is open from 8pm until 7am each day of the week. Beds with individual storage lockers are available for each resident. Communal dinner is held at 8:30pm, and breakfast items can be grabbed to go.”

The shelter also offers Flash Passes for transportation and provides access to UCLA medical students to assist with health issues and enable students to save money on co-pays.

For financially strapped students, the shelter is a pretty good gig. Thanks to Students for Students, broke college kids can now pursue their academic dreams in a safe space, with likeminded individuals. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this is a good thing.