California bill would let homeless college students sleep in cars on campus amid housing crisis

With thousands of community college students in California either homeless or facing the threat of homelessness, the state assembly in Sacramento is considering a bill that would allow those students to legally sleep overnight in their vehicles at campus parking lots and structures.

The new bill, which was sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman, would permit any student in good standing at their community college to use their school’s parking system as a place to sleep overnight as California struggles with a massive housing crisis. State law already requires that community colleges provide their homeless students with access to shower and bathroom facilities on campus.

“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,” Berman said in a statement Wednesday, according to the Sacramento Bee. “Unfortunately, this is all too common throughout California, with one in four community college students experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness.”

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According to a report released last summer by the Assembly Speaker’s Office of Research and Floor Analysis, housing takes up around 43 percent of the average college students overall budget and federal grants  “cover less than a third of average non-tuition costs, leaving a sizable gap that these students must fill,” the report found.

The California Community College system is the state’s largest higher education system – serving around 2.1 million students across 114 campuses. In the Los Angeles Community College District nearly one out of every five students was deemed to be “housing insecure,” while in the Bay Area’s Peralta Community College District a survey found that 84 percent of students were either homeless or facing housing insecurity.

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“I work really hard to keep up with the rest of my class, because I have lost my place three times due to my inability to pay because of my lack of financial aid,” an anonymous, 42-year-old part-time community college student said in the speaker’s report. “I really don’t know what to do to prove I want and deserve this other than continue to show up. And I pray I don’t get killed in the park while I sleep.”