New bill would require community colleges to provide safe parking for homeless students

The high cost of housing in the Bay Area is forcing many college students to live in their cars. South Bay Assemblyman Marc Berman wants to make it a law requiring community colleges to allow homeless students to sleep overnight in school parking lots.

For two years, third-year Foothill College student Matthew considered his 2000 Ford Mustang his home. 

“I wouldn't say it was pleasant,” said Bodo. “It was not. Times were tough especially during the winter when it was really cold. My windows don't really seal right. My heater didn't work for a long time.”

After a falling out with his family, the 21-year-old, who worked valet for Tesla, could not afford his own place. Instead, he slept and lived out of his car.

“I tried staying near school originally,” said Bodo. “While I was sleeping in my car, people would mess with it.”

He also tried parking in residential neighborhoods but was ticketed. Bodo is one of 400,000 students who have experienced homelessness in the last year, according to a study from the California Community College Chancellor's Office.

“I’m absolutely shocked,” said Berman. “We knew it was big but that's massive. One in five, you go into a classroom at a community college and you look around one in five homeless students experienced homelessness in the past 12 months.”

Berman of Palo Alto authored Assembly Bill 302. Berman said this bill expands on a current law requiring community colleges to provide showers and restroom facilities for homeless students.

“We want to work out the details with the community colleges first before we bite off even more because it's been a challenging road so far,” said Berman. 

The bill has been met with some concerns.

In a statement, the Foothill and De Anza Community College District said, “There is quite a bit to it operationally and financially - location, facilities, security, sanitation, liability issues, services, personnel, children, pets, food, cooking, and so on.”

The San Mateo County Community College District wrote,” We do not believe this is a compassionate, dignified or humane way to address this important issue.”

Bodo sees this bill as a step to addressing a growing crisis.

“It’s not solving the problem of homelessness but the more we ignore it the worse it will get,” said Bodo.

Bodo now rents a room in a house in the Los Altos Hills, sharing it with 12 other people, paying $900 a month, all while maintaining a good GPA and being vice president in student government.

As for the prosed law, it must make its way through the legislative process. If approved, it wouldn't go into effect until January 2020.