California State University, Long Beach
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U.S. Department of Housing, Urban Development
Awards $599,880 to Center for Community Engagement

The Center for Community Engagement at CSULB has been awarded a three-year, $599,880 grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Hispanic-Serving Institutions Assisting Communities (HSIAC) program to serve homeless individuals, families and veterans receiving shelter or services through community- or faith-based organizations in west Long Beach's Villages at Cabrillo.

The awards was one of 10 competitive grants worth $6 million made to Hispanic-Serving Institutions to help revitalize low-income neighborhoods near their campuses and bring new opportunities to students and families living there.The HSI grants are administered by HUD's Office of University Partnerships.

"We're thrilled," said Carina Sass, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement."I've been told that only 10 awards like this are given in any year. It is very exciting to know we made it on to a very short list."

Working in partnership with the university's Center for Language Minority Education and Research as well as CSULB Linguistics Professor Michael Fender, the center will use the grant to renovate a vacant modular building in order to establish the Oasis Community Center, a community space that can be utilized by all members of the Villages at Cabrillo, but especially to provide facilities where youths can feel comfortable and welcome.

Additionally, the center will work in partnership with the organizations serving the Villages to establish an infrastructure to provide services and programs that can be accessed by residents across many organizations.Faculty and organizational partners will work together to identify and address needs by utilizing the skills and talents of the CSULB student body and faculty through service-learning, community-based research and other activities.

This project will have a positive impact on organizations' capacity to provide needed services for the residents of the Villages and will improve the physical quality of life of the community and the accessibility and availability of services, Sass explained. CSULB will benefit by replicating a model of university/community partnerships that encourages interdisciplinary and campus/community collaborations to create a positive change through shared resources.

"This grant is a good thing on a couple of levels," Sass said. "Receiving this award says something about the quality of our program, but more than that, it is a validation that the center is going in the right direction in terms of our model of engagement with the community. This grant offers us a means to establish self-perpetuating partnerships at many different levels."

At the conclusion of this grant in November 2010, Sass hopes to have an ongoing infrastructure and relationship between the university and the Villages at Cabrillo that would allow continuing service learning and community-based research that will have an impact on Long Beach's homeless population.

Sass said she believes the center earned the grant because it supports so much of what the university is all about as it relates to the larger community.

"The center brings out the best in who we are and who we can be. We look at the general relationship between the university and the community in a way that has a positive impact on society," she explained. "That happens through the growth of our students and their development as citizens. We want to help them emerge as graduates of Cal State Long Beach and as active participants in society. We work to bring out the best in individuals and help them to use their strengths to have positive impacts on the community. It is incredibly gratifying work to be in."

HSIAC support is available to accredited institutions of higher education granting two- or four-year degrees under the 1998 amendment of the Higher Education Act of 1965. These grants can be used to revitalize local communities while fostering long-term changes. The HSIAC program has assisted colleges and universities in integrating community engagement themes into their curriculum, academic studies and student activities while addressing such social issues as poverty, education, housing and health care.

"These grants are investments in our future generations of great Americans," said HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. "Not only will these funds help improve neighborhoods, but they will help people and places by creating new jobs and economic opportunities in their communities."