Why not let homeless college students park in campus lots?

Monday, February 25, 2019

Obviously, it’s hard to get through college if you have to worry about whether you will eat on any given day or where you will sleep at night. But that’s the situation that many students in California face. Surveys of the state’s community college students have found that about one in five have been homeless during the previous 12 months. That means they’re sleeping in a car, couch-surfing with friends, or living in an abandoned building or out on the street. Although there are also homeless students in the University of California and California State University systems, the numbers are significantly higher at the community colleges.

The community college system is vast, encompassing 2.1 million students spread across 114 campuses. Many are lower-income, juggling jobs and family and school. Some community college campuses already have food banks and offer assistance to students enrolling in California’s food stamps program, known as CalFresh. Providing housing, though, is more challenging. Only 11 community colleges have any form of dormitory housing on their campuses — and most of those are rural colleges.

A new bill in the Legislature, AB 302, introduced by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), aims to help. It would require community colleges to allow homeless students who are living in vehicles to park overnight in campus parking facilities. The students would have to be enrolled in classes and in good standing at the college. It’s not known exactly how many students are living in their cars.