San Jose State students experience housing insecurity

Students on the San Jose State campus are calling for permanent solutions to the problem of student homelessness.

“I faced homeless insecurity on three different occasions throughout my college career. And one of them was this last October,” said Kenya Cruz, a SJSU senior.

She said she joined the ranks of the homeless, after a fire torched her apartment. She found some assistance through a school program. But that wasn't the cure all. 

“They’re not just personal issues when many, multiple people are going through them. They become social issues,” said Cruz.

The California State University Chancellor’s Office reports nearly 11% of its students experience “housing insecurity” over the course of a year. But at SJ State, the number is higher – over 13%. Some students have taken to sleeping in cars or the library, or living rent-free in a room at a nearby church.

“There’s a housing crisis in the greater Silicon Valley area that’s not just affecting students, but our whole community,” said Saline Chandler, a formerly homeless SJSU student who is now in her senior year.

Since last year, the SJSU Student Homeless Alliance has been pressuring the administration for more help. It currently demands a minimum of 10 safe parking spaces for overnight sleeping.  A minimum of 12 beds in dorms for homeless students and a $2,500 emergency grant if a student can’t afford rent.

“The students' demands are reasonable in light of what other CSU campuses have done to respond to the homeless crisis,” said Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton, the faculty advisor for the SJSU Student Housing Alliance.

Speaking for the university, senior associate Vice President for Strategic Communications, Christine Hutchins said, “We want to, again, find sustainable long-term solutions. And so it means sitting down at the table with our city of San Jose. It means sitting down at the table with our students.”

The university has implemented one of the alliance’s demands – putting information to help homeless students on its website. Tuesday, the two sides meet for a 30 minute meeting. Students want president Mary Papazian to implement the remaining three demands by the end of the current semester.