SAN JOSE, Calif. - Santa Clara County says it’ll begin reviewing a guaranteed income program for unhoused teens headed to college. The program will be funded by the county and will help about 2,500 homeless students throughout the county.
State Senator David Cortese, told KTVU that after reading the Silicon Valley Pain Index, he needed to take action. He partnered with the Board of Supervisors to come up with a plan that would combat housing insecurity among the county's college students.
"Having a housing crisis like that really put a damper on my ability to get work done in school," said Saline Chandler, a student at San Jose State University.
Saline Chandler is a former foster youth who was homeless in high school and while attending San Jose State University. Her lack of housing led her to join San Jose State’s Student Homeless Alliance to demand the University help struggling students.
"I was living at Bill Wilson Shelter and just kind of couch-surfing, sleeping in my car, and that lasted for a period of almost three years until my name finally came up on a housing list for the county and I got an apartment," Chandler said.
Chandler is not alone. The 2022 Silicon Valley Pain Index, an annual report highlighting inequalities, says 11.2% of San Jose State’s student body experienced homelessness in the last 12 months. In 2020, data shows 53,000 students throughout the Cal State University system were homeless at one point that year.
"You can’t fight homelessness at the adult level, while you’re continuing to graduate, literally graduate young people into homelessness at the same time. It’s just a treadmill that we need to get off of," said Sen. David Cortese, CA-Dist. 15.
Cortese, who sponsored SB 1341 in which the county modeled the program after, says the program will cost about $750,000 to a $1 million per year. Each unhoused student will be given a no-strings attached, $1000 stipend for five months after graduating from high school. He says the stipend gives homeless students a much-needed boost to start college.
"A lot of people don’t realize that 25% of the homeless population in Santa Clara County alone, is under the age of 25. It’s really a staggering number and half of that, meaning 12-12 ½ %, is under the age of 18. What did they do to deserve that?" Cortese said.
Cortese says this type of program has already been successful with foster youth who age out of the system. As for Chandler, she’s in her final year at San Jose State and working with Destination Home, advocating for the homeless. The Board of Supervisors will review the program’s framework in November.