Bill Would Allow Homeless College Students to Sleep in Parking Lots on Campus

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A bill by Assemblymember Marc Berman of Palo Alto would allow homeless community college students to sleep in their vehicles overnight in campus parking facilities.

“Over the last two years, I’ve heard from too many students that they don’t have stable housing and often end up sleeping in their cars. Unfortunately, this is all too common throughout California, with one in four community college students experiencing homelessness,” said Assemblymember Berman. “The long term solution is to build more housing, but while we work to make that a reality, AB 302 is a step that we can take now to ensure that homeless students have a safe place to sleep at night.”

If it became law, AB 302 would require “community colleges to grant overnight access to campus parking facilities to any homeless student that is enrolled in coursework, has paid enrollment fees, and is in good standing with the community college without requiring the student to enroll in additional courses. The bill would further compel each community college district governing board to develop a plan to implement the new requirement.”

Surveys have shown that an increasing number of students are housing insecure and homeless – with an even higher percentage of community college students than at CSU or UC.

This weekend, the LA Times Editorial Board backed the bill, noting, “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.”

They add: “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.”

There is a total of 2.1 million community college students, spread across 114 campuses.

The Times notes: “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.”

The bill would allow homeless students to park overnight in campus parking facilities.  Students would need to be enrolled and in good standing at the college.  The Times notes: “It’s not known exactly how many students are living in their cars.”

From the perspective of the Times: “This is a well-intentioned idea that could offer modest but much needed help to homeless students trying to improve their lives despite enormous obstacles. It echoes a similar 2016 state law that requires community colleges make showers in athletic facilities available to homeless students even if they’re not enrolled in physical education classes. That law seems to be working well.”

At the same time, the Times points out: “Safe parking is not a solution to homelessness. But, properly and carefully undertaken, an initiative such as this one could offer much-needed assistance to students who are already working on improving their lives by getting a college degree, and who deserve what help we can offer.”

In his release, Assemblymember Berman cites homeless student James Tompkins from Bakersfield College.

“As students, we chose to dedicate ourselves to pursuing a better life using education as our primary tool. We sacrifice everything; a growing number of us have even sacrificed our most basic human need, a place to call home. We had to decide if we were going to buy books or pay rent. We chose to stay steadfast in our commitment and follow our dreams,” said Mr. Tompkins.

He added, “Being a homeless student means lots of coffee to hide the sleepless nights walking or driving aimlessly and having extra deodorant in case you don’t make it to campus early enough to shower before class. Being a student and chasing our dreams is worth being homeless.”

Mr. Berman told ABC 10 in Sacramento that the bill could give “homeless students an additional level of security.”

There is currently no estimate on costs but “there may be costs associated with implementing overnight parking, which will vary campus to campus.”

While UC Davis does not have nearly the homeless population of the average community college, estimates last year in the Affordable Housing Survey found that as many as 7 percent of UC Davis students suffered from homelessness, at least for a time, in the previous year.

Another 18 to 19 percent of students reported some form of housing insecurity – the inability to pay their full rent or their full utilities, they moved two or more times, they doubled up with others without a lease, or they moved in with others because of their financial circumstances.

Students at UC Davis have reported a number of students sleeping on couches, the library or study lounge, or in their cars.

Last summer, Robert Saper, a graduate student at UC Davis, who has his master’s in Community Development and who previously worked as a research assistant for the Task Force, told the Davis City Council, “I think these numbers reflect not a simple crisis of affordability, they reflect an absolute market stagnation and degraded quality of life.  I don’t think this is a problem that the university can face on its own or the city can face on its own.  It’s going to require a concerted collaboration.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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36 thoughts on “Bill Would Allow Homeless College Students to Sleep in Parking Lots on Campus”

  1. Matt Williams

    “Over the last two years, I’ve heard from too many students that they don’t have stable housing and often end up sleeping in their cars. Unfortunately, this is all too common throughout California, with one in four community college students experiencing homelessness,” said Assemblymember Berman. “The long term solution is to build more housing, but while we work to make that a reality, AB 302 is a step that we can take now to ensure that homeless students have a safe place to sleep at night.”

    Color me confused.  Aren’t all Community College students commuters?  Do any of California’s Community Colleges actually have dormitories?

    1. David Greenwald

      I thought somewhere I noted that there were no on-campus housing for community college.  I’m not sure why the Assemblymember’s statement is confusing in light of that – students still need a place to sleep if they are not living at home.

      1. Bill Marshall

        students still need a place to sleep if they are not living at home.

        Definition?  Either parents’ home or on ‘street’/parking lot?  I think not…

        Outliers.  Almost all Comm College folk either live in their traditional ‘homes’ or in apartments.

        The legislation is a political ploy.  I’d argue that living in a parking lot is not more ‘safe’ than on a public street.  More ‘eyes’ are on the street.  David, you seem to be engaged in the same political ploy…

        Still, I have no problem with the legislation, except it is vacuous… no real benefit to anyone… but no inherent harm. Silly.

        Legislation to fund housing vouchers, etc. would be far more meaningful…

         

  2. Todd Edelman

    No, no, no. UC Davis needs to immediately buy some temporary, solid, ideally-individual shelters and support them with hygiene facilities and so on, in a location that is both peaceful (i.e. not next to I-80) and affords the users some dignity and privacy.

    1. Bill Marshall

      No.

      You want to be effective, invite one (or more) homeless students to share your habitation. Then, and only then, can you be credible as to your statements.

      I never lived ‘alone’ in college… had to share… a good life lesson…

        1. Bill Marshall

          No.

          Todd suggested ” solid, ideally-individual shelters and support them with hygiene facilities and so on, in a location that is both peaceful (i.e. not next to I-80) and affords the users some dignity and privacy.

          Lived in dorms, apartments… had to share space and costs…

          referent…

        2. Alan Miller

          > No.

          Then what are you saying?  Get a roommate?  If someone is homeless, why is taking in a paying roommate, that probably won’t be the person living in a car since they probably can’t pay rent, then how does that make one ‘credible as to your statements’?

        3. Bill Marshall

          Yes, Alan, there are outliers… they are no more safe in a parking lot than parked/sleeping in front of your house… feel free to invite them into your house… for their safety, and rational concern/caring for others..

          My main point is that allowing folk to sleep in a parking lot, is “hollow” care, at best. Faux caring.

    2. Alan Miller

      in a location that is both peaceful (i.e. not next to I-80) and affords the users some dignity and privacy.

      So those paying rent live next to I-80, but those being given free government-subsidized housing must live in a peaceful location?  How does that work?

    3. Don Shor

      Todd’s suggestion has considerable merit.

      While I don’t think this bill affects UC Davis, it is certainly true that UCD could bring in temporary housing and locate it in any number of places where they already have at least rudimentary utilities. There are old buildings west of the main campus on the way to the Primate Center, so presumably that is plumbed and wired for the basics. I’m sure they could even provide some of that in parking lots if they so chose. I suspect they don’t want to set the precedent or deal with the regulatory aspects of providing housing in exceptional situations.

        1. Craig Ross

          Your question Matt, starts with the assumption that community college students are the typical 18 year old right out of their parents home.  My understanding is that’s not the case.

          You should start with the questions: what does the population of community college students look like and what are the circumstances of homeless students?

          From what I know – a good deal of homeless students are not 18 year olds whose parents live less than 20 miles from campus.  That’s why they’re homeless.

      1. Alan Miller

        I remember when I was on the parking committee 15 years ago, we all wanted to open up the Regal Lot (Olive & Richards).  As in, as is, dirt.

        It took well over a decade, because the lot needed to be paved and have proper handicapped facilities due to current regs, and funding had to be found for that.

        That’s a FLAT LOT.  I can only imagine the complications trying to turn an old building into housing.

  3. Craig Ross

    It’s kind of a joke.  Who wants to live in car?  So why not put money into something like housing or aid benefits or something that will lessen the need to live in a car.  No – let’s make it easier to live in a car.  Say what?

      1. John Hobbs

        “Who wants to live in car?”

        Someone without other options. I was a touring musician for about 5 years in the late 70s and spent many nights in either a tour bus or car. Beats the heck out of the out-of-doors. When I visited Western State University/Colorado many students lived in trailers, even in the brutal winters. (Thanks for the hospitality Molly Bacon) I’m pretty sure the first time I saw UCLA, some of the students were housed in Quonset huts. Of course if homeless Davis students were really creative they could displace the street beavers and take over the dams.

        1. Bill Marshall

          You are correct Alan… @ UCD the quonsets were used on the Aggie Villa site when they had a lot of guys coming back from WWII, eager to use their GI bill benefits for college.

          Mini-dorms, as it were.

          They were torn down early/mid 70’s

    1. Matt Williams

      Craig, the questions being asked are not focused on the homelessness. Homelessness in a community is definitely something that needs to be addressed.  What the questions are focused on is the narrow, community college student target of the bill.

      Community college students do not “go away” for their education the way students do if they attend a University or 4-year College.  If a person does not “go away” to attend your college or university, then that student has his/her “hometown” residence to live in … unless he/she or his/her parents have chosen to estrange themselves from one another.  If a student is living in the same town as his/her parents, why would he/she choose to be homeless rather than avail himself/herself of a roof over his/her head?

      The logical exceptions to that logic are the 18-24 year olds who are going to college in their “home town” and are also estranged from their parents.  However, I doubt many of the 18-24 year olds who are estranged from their parents will have made the decision to go to college rather than pursue the fiscal security of a job.

        1. Matt Williams

          Alan, all good “what-ifs.”  Let’s deal with them one at a time.  If a homeless person’s parents live in another town, would that person be likely to be going to community college rather than trying to earn a living while working a job?

          If a homeless person’s parents are deceased, would that person be likely to be going to community college rather than trying to earn a living while working a job?

          If a homeless person’s parents live in Mexico, would that person be likely to be going to community college rather than trying to earn a living while working a job?

          If a homeless person’s parents are drug addicts, would that prevent the person from living with the parents while going to community college?

          If a homeless person’s parents are also homeless, would that person be likely to be going to community college rather than trying to earn a living while working a job?

          If a homeless person’s parents are total arsehols, would that prevent the person from living with the parents while going to community college, or alternatively trying to earn a living while working a job?

          Bottom-line, in all the categories you have described a homeless 18-24 year old is highly, highly unlikely to have going to community college on their radar.

          With that said, I believe the chances of a homeless 18-24 year old in any of the categories you listed going to a 4-year university or college are higher than the chances of him/her going to a community college.

          JMO

        2. Matt Williams

          They don’t Alan.  In fact, I suspect that a homeless person who matches more than one of your descriptions is even less likely to have community college on their radar than a homeless person who matches only one of your descriptions.

          Said another way, all of the descriptions you have provided are “barriers to entry.”

      1. Tia Will

        Matt

        I think you are placing too much emphasis on the availability of the typical nuclear family structure to all. I did not live with my mother and her husband throughout my college education since I would never have chosen to live with him. Ever. My son, when it was clear he was going to go the community college route, chose to go to Peralta in Berkley rather than stay here. I supported that decision and supported my son in shared housing. I could afford that. Many cannot or will not support children for many reasons.

        To the issue of living in one’s vehicle, I did that several times during my college career to save money for medical school. Having designated spaces on campus would have been a real plus so as not to have to locate a different safe space every night, sometimes being reported and having to find a new spot in the middle of the night. Sometimes just having a “wellness check” from a sympathetic officer.

        I suspect that some commenters here do not truly understand this issue because they have simply never faced it.

        1. Matt Williams

          Tia, in your personal example were you attending a community college?

          My point is, and has always been, why should this program/bill restrict itself to only community colleges, and exclude 4-year universities and colleges?

    1. Matt Williams

      Do those College Board demographics studies include comparative proportions of homeless in community colleges vs. 4-year colleges?

      My suspicion is that the proportion of homeless is lower in the demographic cohort that fits your “older, less likely to be dependents, come from lower-income homes, and more likely to be working while attending school” description.  That is a description of people who have taken ownership of their lives and are working hard to better themselves.

      1. Don Shor

        “a full one third of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, and if they lost their job, they would not be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment.”– Aug 2018, https://medium.com/@baxleyjames/the-homeless-are-lazy-bums-so-i-used-to-think-f911dedc4cc5
        But the school year that they’ve paid fees for continues.
        I don’t care if it’s some, a few, many, several, a high percentage, a low proportion, or more or less likely than others in their age group. If they’re doing that, as far as I’m concerned, they should be able to sleep in a parking lot safely and not be hassled by anyone for doing so. This law seems like a reasonable palliative, and is not intended as a panacea.

        1. Bill Marshall

           If they’re doing that, as far as I’m concerned, they should be able to sleep in a parking lot safely and not be hassled by anyone for doing so. This law seems like a reasonable palliative, and is not intended as a panacea.

          Not being hassled, no argument… makes sense… are they “safe”?  I think, NOT…
          I agree it is not a panacea… it is a political ploy, and doesn’t work towards any real goal… only decriminalizes a situation…

          Can we not do better?

          Don, I call you out as borderline hypocrite… would you allow folk living in cars on your parking area? Why not just invite them into your home?

           

           

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