A new state law intends to help homeless students in California graduate from community college by giving them access to showers.
Das Williams knows firsthand how tough it can be to stay in school when you don’t have a place to live.
"I was homeless when I went to Santa Barbara City College," says Williams, "and I can tell you that access to shower facilities can make a world of difference for keeping homeless students in school."
Williams is a former state Assemblymember for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. He’s the author of the new law. It requires community colleges with existing shower facilities to grant access to those showers for homeless students, even if they’re not taking physical education classes.
“If you’re going to succeed as a homeless student, often you have to fake being normal," says Williams. "And faking being normal means: taking a shower; being able to dress normally. That’s part of our society.”
Williams says the new law is intended to help boost rates of completion at California’s community colleges which he says hover around 50 percent after six years.
Laura Metune is with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. She says the law represents one small change that can have a big impact.
"Students who struggle with food or housing insecurity need additional support," says Metune. "And this is just one piece in this larger effort of our colleges to provide services that improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps."
Under the new law, students must be enrolled in a minimum amount of course work, have paid their enrollment fees and be in good standing at the college.