Since starting school last fall, Sacramento City College student Shae Fox has slept, studied and lived in her car twice. She recently moved into an apartment and is now waiting on her financial aid money to be processed in order to pay rent. But she’s worried about keeping a roof over her head.
“I can’t catch a break,” Fox said. “I just want to unpack my stuff somewhere. I just want to call a place my home. I want to get mail somewhere.”
A new survey released this month suggests Fox is not the only student going through this experience: 19 percent of community college students in California have faced homelessness in the past year.
That statistic may be shocking to some. The report’s author — the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice — defines a homeless person as someone who is not necessarily living on the streets, but instead a person who does not have a stable place to live.
For two years, the group surveyed an estimated 40,000 students from 57 colleges across the state. According to the research, 60 percent reported facing housing insecurity — with paying rent and utilities being the most common challenges.
In an effort to help ease the problem of homelessness, Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman from Palo Alto has introduced a bill that would allow community college students to sleep in their cars overnight in school parking lots.
Berman realizes this is not a long term fix, but views it as a step in the right direction.
“There’s no solution that’s too small,” Berman said. “And I think this is one that can be implemented quickly. And from the students that I’ve spoken to, this will have a massive positive impact on their quality of life and their ability to stay in school.”
Berman also hopes to include overnight security and bathroom access in the bill. According to Fox, these were two major concerns she had while living in her car.
“It’s not like you can just get up in the morning and run to the bathroom. No, you don’t have a bathroom,” she said.
According to Berman, a similar bill could be introduced to help homeless students in the CSU system. Although, only recommendations could be presented to the UC system.
“This needs an all-hands-on-deck approach to try to address it,” Berman said. “I hope everybody’s interested in coming to the table to find solutions.”
The bill is currently waiting to be heard by the Committee on Higher Education.