Housing prices in California are expensive, but especially for those stepping out for the first time on their own.
As the rate of homeless community college students grows, state legislators are looking for ways to help.
A new bill, AB-302, introduced in late January, could open up new places on campuses for homeless students to stay.
For homeless Cuesta College student Riley Taft, balancing school and his living situation is like a full-time job.
Taft currently lives in his van.
“Already having the workload in a stressful environment for some students and adding on top of that am I going to be kicked out of this place? So to be able to sleep on campus would be great,” Taft said.
Now new legislation is aimed at students like Taft, requiring community college campuses with parking facilities to allow homeless students to park there overnight.
Students have to be currently enrolled, in good academic standing and have all their fees paid up.
“It would benefit my student life because I would be able to be here on campus more time and spend more time studying at the library and use these resources other than coming here for school and then going back to SLO and then having to find a coffee shop to study at until it closes,” Taft said.
Cuesta College recently sent out a survey to learn more about its students’ living situations.
The administration is starting to work with community partners like 40 Prado to be able to better connect students with other homeless services available in San Luis Obispo.
“A place to park is addressing only a part of the issue of homelessness, it’s also access to other basic support that are needed for day-to-day living,” said Mark Sanchez, Vice President of Student Services at Cuesta College.
Over at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, advisers and student leaders say they’re “excited” to be able to help students in this way.
“Our goal here on our campus is really to change the odds for our students in our community by creating a college-going culture, so we look to improve our services and offer any type of opportunity we can for our students to be successful,” said Nohemy Ornelas, Vice President of Student Services at Allan Hancock College.
“(Homeless students) are just like us. They go to class, they get good grades, they’re working towards a goal. It’s just amazing to see how they overcome all of their obstacles and continue to fight every day for something they’re passionate about,” said Allan Hancock College Student Body President Frankie Maldonado.
Maldonado says because the need is so high to help the homeless and less fortunate students, they have changed their food pantry distribution from twice a month to now once a week.
Both campuses say they are looking to find ways to add laundry services for homeless students and what security procedures would need to be changed.
The bill was read before the California state legislature last week and has not yet been put up for a vote. State law already mandates community college campuses to have showers for homeless students.