CSUN student groups organize winter clothing drive in Van Nuys


Carina Cardenas

Dwayne Johnson, left, Jonathan and Justin Dones assist in organizing all the clothes available during the distribution of resources for unhoused individuals on the corner of Aetna Street and Tyrone Avenue in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 19, 2021.

Shannon Carter, News Editor

Leaders from the CSUN Young Democratic Socialists of America, Colored Minds Inc. and the Asian American Studies Pathways Project joined forces at the beginning of the fall semester and looked for ways to collaborate and serve the community.

The organizations found common ground with mutual aid. They looked for a way to bring this practice to campus by organizing a winter clothing drive for the unhoused community in Van Nuys.

The concept of mutual aid, a practice that has been around for decades, gained mainstream attention after the societal disasters that unfolded after the COVID-19 pandemic. Mutual aid is when communities unite to form a support system where they take responsibility for caring for their neighbor rather than leaving them to fend for themselves.

Within this support system of mutual aid, people work together to meet the community’s needs by offering help through different methods and then redistributing these resources back into the community, including food, shelter, transportation or offering a trade skill that may be needed within the community. The goal is to build a long-standing network between neighbors and communities, and eliminate the need to rely on politicians, government systems, or even charities.

Jakob Mesina assists an unhoused individual with deciding whether they like the red flannel on the corner of Aetna Street and Tyrone Avenue in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 19, 2021. (Carina Cardenas)

In November, the three student organizations went to their social media pages and asked their followers to donate clothes at the CSUN community center, the Glenn Omatsu House. A few days later, the trio met at the Van Nuys Day Labor Center to hand the clothing out to the unhoused population.

Skylar Hall, an intern at the AASPP, said he got involved because they want to give back and broaden their community advocacy work. The AASPP coordinates student programming related to Asian American and Pacific Islander students, provides tools and resources for student success, and has become a supportive environment for students to share their experiences and be around people that are like-minded.

Hall said that while their organization is at CSUN and their focus is on AAPI students, they consider themselves a multifaceted program that is about community.

“We really are for the people,” he said.

CMI, a student-run organization that aims to racially diversify the faculty at CSUN, has been involved in community outreach since its inception in November 2020. According to their Facebook page, their work is focused on building a community that is rooted in solidarity and making positive changes to the problems that plague our society.

But calling out inequalities is not the only thing CMI wants to be known for — they want to be known for actually doing something about these issues. Co-founder Daniel Garcia said the purpose of the winter clothing drive was to meaningfully engage with the unhoused community, which he calls a form of “radical caring.”

Garcia said that the clothing drive goes beyond handing out clothes to unhoused people. The group wants to send a message that there are college students — people with educational privilege — who want to help those less fortunate and be a part of breaking down the systems that oppress marginalized groups.

“We want to overturn [street] ordinances, we want to bring in equity, and we don’t want to be just a part of the capitalist cog machine,” Garcia said. “That’s what this work is about.”