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Proposal to let homeless students sleep in cars

Posted at 7:25 AM, Apr 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 18:16:32-04

Update, Friday 3:15 p.m.: Assemblyman Berman's office said the bill passed the Higher Education Committee and now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A recent study of California's community colleges found that 1 in 5 students had been homeless in the past year.

To help these students, San Diego's community college district offers showers, priority class registration, food pantries, and help finding homeless services on and off campus.

But a new State Assembly bill aims to aid homeless students further by requiring schools to let them sleep in their vehicles overnight in campus parking lots and structures.

Assembly Bill 302, introduced earlier this year by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), specifies "that if a community college campus has parking facilities on campus, the governing board of the community college district (CCD) shall grant overnight access to those facilities to any homeless student for the purpose of parking the student’s vehicle overnight, provided the student: a) Is enrolled in coursework; b) Has paid enrollment fees, if not waived; and, c) Is in good standing with the CCD without requiring the student to enroll in additional courses."

While the long-term solution is to create more affordable housing opportunities for students and families, the bill hopes to help a student’s ability to remain in school and be successful.

“With the passage of AB 302, homeless students at community college campuses will be able to park overnight in a safe area. Providing this resource will enable our students to get some rest without having to constantly fear for their safety.”

The proposal isn't without some opposition, getting mixed reviews from at least one school district.

The Los Rios Community College District is calling the bill a “one size fits all” mandate that may not work for all of the state's campuses. Costs to implement the program are projected to be significant as it will require schools to increase overnight security staffing, custodial and utility costs, and the potential of threat of lawsuits for persons injured on campus parking lots during the evening hours.

“Mandate cost claims are never fully reimbursed: Mandates are reimbursed only after costs are incurred and often times do not reflect the actual costs incurred in these activities," said officials with The Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento.

Some students at San Diego Community College said the bill may exacerbate limited parking availability on campuses where parking is already difficult to find.

"If it was during the day, or something like that, then it would be inconvenient for people trying to find parking or take the courses here," said Daniel Silva, a San Diego Community College student. "But overnight, it seems pretty harmless."

San Diego Community College District officials are supportive of the idea, but would like to see some changes to the specifics. They will be monitoring Tuesday's committee hearing on AB 302.

"We'd prefer a bill that allows colleges to open their parking lots overnight for homeless students, rather than requires it," says SDCCD Spokesman Jack Beresford.