Skyrocketing housing costs makes homeless SJSU professor candidate for students' bus shelter

- Some San Jose State University students are trying to make their own mark on the problem of homelessness by providing those in need with a place to call their own.

The fix these San Jose State engineering students are trying to accomplish has less to do with this school bus’s engine, and more to do with its interior.

“We create new ideas. We create new technologies and then we put them into work, like the one we’re doing right now,” said Maria Rivera, a junior engineering student.

Their current two-month project is more of a tear down for transformation. The team applies its design skills learned over their individual college careers to turn this donated short school bus into a livable space on wheels for the homeless.

“To me it was a potential win-win. It would be an opportunity for the students to practice their engineering skills. And at the same time, create something that’s of value to the community,” said Professor Edward Sydzik, who oversees the project.

The design team measures available space inside to outfit this bus with a bed, bathroom, stove, fridge, and desk and chair.

“The biggest challenge we’re going to face for this bus is the wiring and figuring out how to power the things like the refrigerator. They said they want to put a heating unit into the bus because it gets really cold at night,” said Semon Ankirsky, a senior engineering student.

The curious turn in this project, is who made the interior wish list. 

“Yeah, this is my whole… yeah, bedroom. Bathroom. Yeah,” said Ellen James-Penney.

The SJSU English Lit and critical thinking adjunct professor is facing her own head-scratcher.

Homeless since last summer due to the skyrocketing price of housing, she and husband Jim have lived in a kind of duplex: She sleeps in a Volvo XC 70 station wagon, and he spends the night in a GMC Sierra pickup truck. When the engineering students learned of their plight, they decided to act.

“God love ‘em. Honestly. Because, no one else. no one else has reached out to do that, to do anything like that for us, except Grace Baptist (church),” said Prof. Penney.

The bus needs to be finished by May, before some of the students graduate. If successful, this could become a model of recycling, on a whole new scale..

“It’s definitely the right step in the right direction,” said Ankirsky.

Right now the students are finalizing a materials list – things that will need to be made or purchased. And then over the next two months, a mad dash to get this finished by May. The hardest, and most ambitious part – installing solar panels on the bus roof for power.

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