Loyola Marymount University student to graduate despite homelessness, obstacles on Skid Row

Friday, May 8, 2015
Once-homeless man to graduate from Loyola Marymount University
A 23-year-old man who spent two years in a homeless shelter on Skid Row is graduating from Loyola Marymount University on Saturday.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Kenneth Chancey and his younger sister would walk through Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles every day on their way to school.

"You really see Skid Row at 6:30 in the morning... It's just where I am now versus walking through Skid Row every morning to get to school, it's just been such a journey," Chancey said.

On Saturday, the 23-year-old will take a very different walk to receive his diploma at Loyola Marymount University, a dream that began in a 200-square-foot room Chancey shared with his father and sister.

Though the small room wasn't much to Chancey, who was 15 at the time, it was better than living on the streets or even sleeping on a bus.

"I slept on the 4 bus to downtown to Santa Monica and then back to downtown, and that still makes me emotional now, but no one should have to experience that. That's the hard part," he said.

While at the Union Rescue Mission, Chancey was on the varsity track, swim and football team and maintained a 4.0 grade point average. Those around him immediately recognized and were inspired by his drive.

"The journey from living in a van, going to school with the same set of clothes every day, feeling really bad about life and yet he never ever gave up," said Andy Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission.

Chancey says he was embarrassed about being homeless and never told any of his classmates where he lived. For him, the rooftop of the Union Rescue Mission was his escape.

"It's beautiful. It's serene. You see the view, but mainly because you escape Skid Row. Everything is beautiful if you don't look down," Chancey said.

Now with a degree in political science from LMU, Chancey says his work is far from over. He wants to change the perception of homelessness using his life as an example.

"We hear perpetuating stereotypes that homeless are mentally ill or mentally unstable, but there's families on Skid Row, and there are families that need support. Sometimes it's not that people don't want to exit Skid Row, its people don't have the means and the opportunity to," Chancey said.

"When people learn of his story, I think it inspires them all that, 'Hey, if Kenneth can do it, maybe I can do it,'" Bales said.