Bill offers homeless students campus parking lot to sleep

Photo Illustration by Steve Adamo

By Melisa Valenzuela

Assembly Bill 302, or the Safe Lot Legislation, would allow homeless California community college students to sleep in their vehicles in campus parking facilities.

The bill was introduced by assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) January.

Its purpose is to provide a temporary solution to California’s current housing crisis which has left thousands of community college students homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.

According to Berman, out of the quarter of a million community college students enrolled in the 2016-2017 academic year, one in four (about 50,000) experienced homelessness.

Although the long- term solution would be building more affordable housing for low-income and homeless students, AB 302 is a step that could secure a safe place for students to sleep at night.

This option would only be available to students who are enrolled in coursework, have paid their enrollment fees and are in good standing with the college without having to enroll in additional classes.

AB 302 stems from another bill, AB 1995, signed by former governor Jerry Brown in 2016.

AB 1995 required community colleges to grant access to campus shower facilities to homeless students who met the same qualifications.

AB 1995 and other programs such as Success for Homeless Youth in Higher Education Act, California College Promise, and federal Pell grants have been readily available to assist struggling students.

The Success for Homeless Youth in Higher Education Act and the California College Promise help cover enrollment and tuition fees, but those are not the biggest expenses students face.

According to a report from Assembly Speaker’s Office of Research and Floor Analysis released last summer, housing takes up about 43 percent of a student’s budget.

Pell grants can be used for non-tuition costs but “cover less than a third of average non-tuition costs, leaving a sizable gap that these students must fill,” according to the same report.

AB 302 has yet to pass, so the law is not certain.

Some major issues such as funding have yet to be discussed.

“It could impact thousands to tens of thousands in California, so I think that is a price worth paying,”  Berman said.

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