By Ivan Cazares
California Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo ALTO) has decided to postpone a proposed law that would require community colleges to permit students facing homelessness to use parking lots located on campuses to sleep in their cars.
The decision to postpone AB 302 is in response to changes made to the bill by the Senate Appropriations Committee in August.
The fate of the proposed law introduced by Berman and co- authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales will be decided Sept 2020.
Berman’s primary grievance is an amendment which would exempt colleges located within 250 feet of an elementary school.
In the bill’s original draft, only colleges that provide alternative services that help homeless students with housing such as hotel vouchers could be exempt from the program.
“The amendment to exempt community colleges located within 250 feet of an elementary school
is detrimental to our efforts to encourage these homeless students to seek help,” Berman wrote in a press release Sept. 3rd.
“Homeless students are not pedophiles that need to be kept away from children. They are men and women – many of them barely adults themselves – who are trying to improve their lives by obtaining a better education. They should be celebrated, not stigmatized. I am also unaware of any elementary school students attending school between 9 p.m. and 7am, which is when Safe Lots programs typically operate.”
East Los Angeles College is within 250 feet of Robert Hill Lane Elementary School and Brightwood Elementary School leaving its participation in Safe Lots program up to its administration if the bill is made into law.
ELAC provides some services that help the homeless, but doesn’t offer any direct housing aid to them.
The Associated Student Union and various departments organize food pantries and clothing drives for students in need regardless of housing status.
It also abides by AB 1995 which
was signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown in 2016.
The law mandates that community colleges allow homeless students access to their shower facilities.
“We have an idea (of who’s homeless,) but because of privacy we don’t ask. If they are a student then they have the right to use the facilities.
If we have questions we could ask for an ID or class schedule, but we don’t ask if they are homeless,” Erika Blanco, chair of the Kinesiology Department said.
“For students not in the Kinesiology Department we have (the showers) open from 12 to 2 p.m., but if a student comes at 7 p.m. we don’t turn them away. But again, we ask for an ID to use ourfacilities. The school de nitelydoes what it can to support.”
Blanco said the shower facilities are in the North Gym, which are the ones students not in sports or in the Kinesiology Department can use are open until 8 p.m.
The current version of the bill has the colleges providing this resource from July 2021 to 2023 if ratied.