Once unhoused and despite a family loss, USC Dornsife senior graduates and heads to Yale law school

Sophia Perez

In 2020, as the country grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, Sophia Perez’s father lost his job. Perez, her parents and her four siblings were forced to leave their home in Whittier, Calif., and move in with Perez’s aunt, where they shared one room.

As she prepares to graduate May 10 with a degree in political science, and minors in economics and legal studies, from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Perez reflects on the experience. She says she learned firsthand how precarious housing can be, and how homelessness takes many forms.

Lessons from family experience

“When people think of what it means to be unhoused, it’s typically an ‘on-the-street’ type of homelessness,” she explains. “But I learned that not owning or renting a home — just living out of another person’s home — is also a form of ’sheltered’ homelessness.”

Read more of Sophia’s story