News

Proposed bill would allow homeless students to sleep in community college parking lots overnight

Legislation by Marc Berman passes through committee on Tuesday

De Anza College in Cupertino's vacant parking lot B could possibly turn into a place where community college students can park and sleep in their cars overnight under state Assembly Bill 302. Photo by Christian Trujano.

Homeless community college students will be permitted to park and sleep in their cars overnight at any community college in California if Assembly Bill 302, proposed by a former Palo Alto city councilman, passes.

AB 302 is a proposed state mandate that would require community colleges with parking facilities to allow overnight parking for homeless students. The schools would apply to the state to get their expenses reimbursed for creating these safe parking lots.

To qualify for the program, students must be enrolled in courses, have paid for those courses and must be in good standing with their college.

Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, who authored the bill, said he was moved during five informational hearings throughout the state during the 2017-2018 legislative session, when students shared their stories of homelessness and housing insecurities that prevented them from completing their degrees.

The bill passed by a 10-0 vote out of the Assembly Higher Education Committee on Tuesday and it will next go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee in mid-May, according to Berman.

"When we surveyed homeless college liaisons, they said that housing is the greatest need of the students they serve and yet the hardest need to meet," Shahera Hyatt, director of the California Homeless Youth Project, said during a press conference at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office and The Hope Center's #RealCollege initiative surveyed nearly 40,000 students at 57 community colleges statewide.

Of those respondents, 19 percent said they experienced homelessness in the last 12 months and 20 percent said they experienced having to sleep in their cars.

Extrapolate that to California's community college population of 2.1 million students, and it means that almost 400,000 students statewide have experienced homelessness in the last year.

"Four hundred thousand homeless community college students in California is totally unacceptable," Berman said.

The assemblyman said he wants to tackle this issue head-on with feasible short-term solutions that have never been done before, such as AB 302.

"This is the answer, not the problem," Berman said. "It's not like these kids don't exist, and we need to stop pretending like they don't exist. We need to start helping them."

Students also addressed how these basic-need insecurities are not just getting in the way of their education, but creating concerns for their overall safety.

"I was working full time and I was going to school in the evenings and after I left class each night, the biggest challenge for me was, where am I going to go?" said Anthony White, a second-year Palomar College student and veteran of the U.S. Marines.

White said he lived in his truck for eight months while being a full-time father, but decided to send his son to live with his mother out of state because his housing situation was not stable enough.

"These students are sleeping in their cars, in our communities, tonight. It's happening," Berman said. "Rather than the student sleeping in a residential neighborhood in Palo Alto, the student will be able to sleep in their cars on campus at Foothill or De Anza community college."

Matthew Bodo, a third-year student at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, also experienced homelessness for about two years off and on. He primarily slept in his car while couch surfing and trying to find a stable place to live.

Bodo said he was a full-time student at the time he was homeless and worked a full-time job, but was still unable to afford rent. He then tried to sleep at the parking facilities on Foothill College's campus, but was met with police resistance.

"I did attempt to sleep in my car on campus and was asked to leave several times by campus police," said Bodo. "So I resorted to sleeping nearby off campus, which was not well received by the residents of the area."

Bodo said residents vandalized his car, which made more fo an impact because the vehicle served as his home.

"I ended up parking farther and farther away from campus to try and find somewhere legal and safe, which was problematic because every day before starting my day at work or school, I would travel to campus to use the showers that were available to all students," he said.

The showers and other facilities Bodo accessed were recently made available to students through an existing bill, AB 1995.

The wording of AB 302 is still vague because Berman said he wants as much flexibility for individual colleges' governing boards to come up with their own plans, including figuring out how to identify these students, quiet hours and security concerning local police.

Berman said he knows he is asking a lot from community colleges, but assures he is asking the same from everyone.

"We as a society have failed miserably, we have failed to build the amount of housing necessary to house our students, to house our retirees, to house our workers," Berman said. "And because we as a society have failed miserably over the last few decades, we now have to look for creative solutions to address the repercussions of our failures."

Weekly journalists will discuss this issue on an episode of "Behind the Headlines." A link to the show will be posted here, on our YouTube channel and podcast page.

Related content:

Editorial: 'Safe Lot' bill is a start

Learn more about state bills on housing currently working their way through the Legislature by watching the April 5 episode of "Behind the Headlines," now available on our YouTube channel and podcast page.

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Comments

17 people like this
Posted by Sleeping in cars is a solution?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2019 at 11:37 am

Sleeping in cars is a solution? is a registered user.

What if the state opted to build very modest dorms on top of that empty parking lot so students could get a decent night's sleep and be prepared to do well in school? Perhaps prioritizing providing housing for humans over parking for cars would be more sensible.


6 people like this
Posted by Annie B
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2019 at 11:46 am

Annie B is a registered user.

Yay. We have to start somewhere and this is a great place to start. We have been promising and failing to build housing for 30 plus years. Let's start with where we are and do things to help today. We can try actually building housing (which will take years), later. If we keep all these students invisible, we can pretend there isn't a problem, but if we see them there in their cars, it's a lot harder. 20 percent of the community college population is horrifying!!! This is a wonderful idea. Thank you, Assemblyman Berman!


4 people like this
Posted by maurice
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Kudos to Marc Berman for proposing a reasonable and compassionate approach to this major problem.
This is only going to get worse, and the "commuter " Community colleges should work on providing housing(temporary portables for now)as a "commuter "is often coming from up to 2 hours away.
Would also cut down on pollution.


6 people like this
Posted by Eva
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 3, 2019 at 12:22 pm

This is a good start Marc Berman, thank you for authoring it. It at least provides a quick fix to the question of where students can legally, safely sleep. And perhaps will be an access point for additional services.

LifeMoves recently created a related program in San Jose called Safe Parking for Families where families with children may park in a secure well-lit parking lot, and receive case management services from LifeMoves Case Managers.

Not a permanent housed solution, but at least a safe option.


23 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 3, 2019 at 12:24 pm

The bill doesn't do anything for students who do not own a car, or can even pay car insurance or have a drivers license. Why don't they open a shelter in the gymnasium every night to house the homeless students safely.


13 people like this
Posted by CoffeeTime
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm

CoffeeTime is a registered user.

> Why don't they open a shelter in the gymnasium every night to house the homeless students safely.

^^^This is the voice of reason & practicality.


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2019 at 5:13 pm

I was "wait and see" regarding Marc Berman. I'm waiting no longer. This is another irrational proposal from someone who apparently can't see down the road to the consequences. No foresight it seems.




2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2019 at 6:23 pm

A concern is break-in on the cars when the students are in class. All of their possessions are in the car. The bill should include some policing of the area. Or better - the school should build a multilayer parking lot so some protection.


19 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2019 at 9:09 pm

That’s it, turn CA’s community colleges into homeless encampments. What could go wrong? Burglaries, robberies, drug dealing, prostitution and other crimes.


2 people like this
Posted by @David
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 3, 2019 at 9:16 pm

[Post removed.]


17 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 3, 2019 at 11:43 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Personally, I think this is a horrible idea!! Why not try and provide real facilities for these homeless students?
Yes, lets just let these students live in an ugly, soon to be dirty, trailer camp, with maybe others who are NOT STUDENTS! No, this is not right!!

Marc Berman, that is a political, feel good solution to a housing problem. Lame, stupid idea!!


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 4, 2019 at 4:19 am

Besides imagining what could go wrong with this, it is a great idea, or rather at least a start of something that could be a great idea if managed well. We should base the helping economy on things like this, housing people and putting them close to training and education facilities with other people around. But also have to be quick to remove troublemakers of things could fall apart quickly. It would be good if there were some kind of work experience offered too.


23 people like this
Posted by Town & Country RVer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2019 at 8:23 am

This is an excellent idea as my family currently resides on ECR near Town & Country in our delapidated but operational RV.

I could now enroll for a few classes at Foothill & qualify for overnight parking. My kids would then qualify for enrollment in the Los Altos School District. We already receive food stamps, Medi-Cal, Aid to Dependent Children and General Assistance from the county. being able to establish some roots at Foothill or De Anza College would enable us to have some roots.

I believe we also qualify for educational & re-training assistance which will help to offset our JC registration and textbook expenses.

Looking forward to this new housing opportunity! Thank you Mr. Berman & god bless.


13 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 4, 2019 at 9:20 am

Town & Country RVer

This is an excellent idea! I'm going to spread the word to the street RVers here in Mt. View. Thank you Marc Berman. :) Please note security for will be needed to prevent auto break-ins while students are in class. Also sanitational facilities must be installed as well portable showers. It's also nice to know due to the required property insurance if anything should happen to the students they will be covered by the school. Or at least will be able to sue the Community colleges for damages. This is a win win for everyone!


7 people like this
Posted by Town & Country RVer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2019 at 9:41 am

AllYouCanEat

Couldn't we just use the gym shower facilities & on-campus restrooms? No need to go overboard with additional amenities.

Why do you subtly associate RV dwellers with thievery? Some panhandle and this practice of course would have to be regulated to a certain extent being a college campus.

One useful feature would be to have a recycling center situated on-site as there are many discarded plastic bottles & aluminum cans that can be turned into cash.

Again, mandatory course registration should be required for overnight parking privileges.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 4, 2019 at 11:25 am

There should be a decal or some notation that is observable that the car belongs to a student. Only cars with noted decals can park there overnight. There should be one area only so they are all in one place instead of all over the place. This requires a lot of legal management so it does not become a drawing card for any and every homeless person with unintended results. You are now bringing in a questionable activity to an isolated high end neighborhood which changes up the nature of the homeowners security in the area. This affects the neighborhood surrounding the college as well as the college.


8 people like this
Posted by Move Elsewhere
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2019 at 12:23 pm

[Portion removed.] I sympathize, but these homeless don’t need to live here, the most expensive area in the nation. They can move to a less expensive state or a less expensive area of California and work while attending college like everyone else. Just like the El Camino Real campers, they don’t need to live here; it’s a privilege, not a right to live here.


10 people like this
Posted by RV From Clear Lake
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2019 at 1:34 pm

This is an excellent opportunity for those living in RVs to (1) procure overnight parking privileges, and (2) acquire some academic college credits along the way.

The bucolic Foothill setting is also conducive spending additional time outdoors in the spacious lawn areas of the campus...almost park-like.

The library will also provide a nice quiet haven for those who enjoy reading or having access to the internet.

Ideally Stanford University will take a cue as they have lots of available land.

Having recently arrived from Lakeport, Palo Alto & Mountain View are nice places to settle-in & become part of the community.

Los Altos & Menlo Park for some reason, are not all that open to RV dwellers who have relocated from other parts of California.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 4, 2019 at 2:16 pm

Posted by RV From Clear Lake, a resident of another community

>> The bucolic Foothill setting is also conducive spending additional time outdoors in the spacious lawn areas of the campus...almost park-like.

>> The library will also provide a nice quiet haven for those who enjoy reading or having access to the internet.

"Hop aboard!" laughed the bug. "And I think you will find That the moose won't object. He's the big-hearted kind."


8 people like this
Posted by RV From Clear Lake
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2019 at 3:43 pm

It would be nice if one could barbecue in the community college parking lots as well (space permitting).

An RV acquaintance who mentioned that he resides near Stanford on El Camino Real said that what he and his family are doing is an extension of Stanford 'tailgating' except they stay longer than the football weekends.

Unfortunately there is little space on the side of El Camino Real for RVers to set up barbecue kettles or gas grills as Memorial Day is approaching.


2 people like this
Posted by Man_S
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Who's going to pay for all this? It'll be the taxpayers of course. Or what they will do is reduce education funds to put this pet project through!

Instead of actually making school housing, they're just putting a stop gap. I'll laugh when a "student" with an RV rolls on by and decides to park at the campus.


Like this comment
Posted by Looking For A Place To Park & Settle
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2019 at 7:20 pm

> I'll laugh when a "student" with an RV rolls on by and decides to park at the campus.

No different than having an apartment near campus...except on wheels.

And being a 'community college', a community of RV resident/students is aptly appropriate.

No one should be deprived of an education or an opportunity to better themselves.


9 people like this
Posted by dorms??
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 4, 2019 at 7:33 pm

IMO a far better solution would be for more CA CCs (including our local Foothill and DeAnza) to offer dorm housing for students whose cost is subsidized for very low-income students. A number of CA CCs do offer housing (Web Link), but almost all are in low-cost rural areas. This is an even greater need for dorms in high-cost Silicon Valley.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Posted by dorms??, a resident of College Terrace

>> IMO a far better solution would be for more CA CCs ([....] to offer dorm housing for students whose cost is subsidized for very low-income students. A number of CA CCs do [...] but almost all are in low-cost rural areas.

If the demand is there, then, I agree, we should build dorms for CCs. Unfortunately, in urban areas, the cost of running dorms is high, and so, the cost of living in the dorms will be high. I question if the demand really will be there, but, it certainly could be tried on a small scale to see.



5 people like this
Posted by The Patriot
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2019 at 2:16 pm

The Patriot is a registered user.

The local opposition to transient RVs settling in Palo Alto is no different than that of some Native American Plains Indians when westward travelers claimed their lands by homestead decree.

The transient RVers are just steadfast adherents of 21st Century Manifest Destiny and their RVs are the modern-day representation of a covered wagon.

Many have traveled far & wide to find a place like Palo Alto or Mountain View to call home & if Foothil JC offers a safe + viable haven, who are we to deny them?

The eastern Indians accommodated the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock & perhaps we should do the same with our new RV neighbors...with a sumptuous Thanksgiving celebration of sorts. Maybe Whole Foods and/or Safeway could sponsor it.

The history of California is one of displacement from the Ohlones > Spanish . Mexicans > eastern/mid-western Americans > the newly arrived residents en masse from China & India.

We are not alone.








9 people like this
Posted by From ECR To Foothill!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2019 at 7:47 pm

Will the pool be available during the summer months as well? It would be nice to be able to walk over from our RV & relax during the off hours...which are many.

The dining hall will also be a convenience as some RVs are not fully operational from a safety & reliability standpoint. Tough to go out & buy groceries.

Will the Rvs have to be registered with the DMV? Ours tags have lapsed but since the brakes are bad, we were advised not to move it off ECR until the vehicle is roadworthy. I think we could make it to Foothill but just barely.

Looking foward to taking a class as well. Hopefully a full-time course load won't be required as I'm not used to devoting the entire day to work or school.


75 people like this
Posted by Go To JC In Your Own District
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2019 at 8:59 am

"Community colleges should work on providing housing (temporary portables for now) as a "commuter "is often coming from up to 2 hours away.

Two hours away? When I went to Foothill (back in the early 1970s) there was a geographic rule that one had to reside in Palo Alto/Los Altos/Mountain View to attend Foothill & if you wanted to go to De Anza which served Sunnyvale & Cupertino, one had to apply for a waiver stating a specific reason (i.e. a certain class or program not being offered at the campus one was supposed to be attending geographically).

The same went for Canada/CSM/Skyline CC district, West Valley et al. In other words, you went to a JC in the district where you actually resided.

This could be the problem. While JCs were in essence, commuter colleges no one commuted two hours away to attend & many students lived at home with their parents or shared an apartment.

The community college districts should return to this rule & force long-distance commuter/students to attend JC where they actually reside. There is absolutely no reason for one to be driving from SF or farther away to attend Foothill as there are JCs in each county.

This would reduce the need for overnight parking at various junior colleges to some extent. Local resident students (if qualified) should have this option but it should not be extended for someone living in Tracy who happens to be going to Foothill...go to JC in the Stockton area.

The key is to reduce the number of long-distance commuter students. Then you will have less of a student housing problem

As far as dorms, they are not feasible due to the high cost of local peninsula real estate. Besides, college dorms are for those attending 4-year colleges & universities, not JCs.

If co-housing is going become a necessity, perhaps it's time to create JC fraternities & sororities as well. Just poll resources & have an 'Animal House' or a 'Big Brother' dwelling somewhere.

Again...the partial solution for this housing problem is for students to attend JC LOCALLY.



55 people like this
Posted by Go To JC In Your Own District
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2019 at 9:20 am

@ Town & Country RVer - RV From Clear Lake - Looking For A Place To Park & Settle - From ECR To Foothill! et al...

Lastly...a JC parking lot should not become a haven for transient RV dwellers.

It creates too many potential problems for administration, campus law enforcement & students attending classes.










2 people like this
Posted by RV Dwellers Seeking Higher Education
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:17 pm

It appears there is a certain bias towards people who live in RVs & park in Palo Alto. Why is that? Can we not co-exist as a community working towards the common good?

This Assembly Bill will enable us to park in community college parking lots while attending classes in order to validate our parking & residential needs.

Wouldn't Palo Alto citizens rather have us parking at Foothill College instead of along El Camino Real or in your neighborhoods?

Meanwhile, we can attend some remedial college classes & ideally apply for registration fee waivers due to our economic disabilities.

This is a win-win for all parties concerned.


7 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:34 pm

The California State Assembly Building includes hundreds of parking spots available for overnight stays, and the building itself includes showers and sanitation facilities. It seems a shame to deprive Mr. Berman of the same opportunity he offering to us.


7 people like this
Posted by RVs Unwelcomed In LAH As Well
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 7, 2019 at 2:46 pm

> It appears there is a certain bias towards people who live in RVs & park in Palo Alto. Why is that? Can we not co-exist as a community working towards the common good?

(1) Because the ubiquitous presence of run-down RVs scattered throughout the city is viewed by many as squatting & visual blight.

(2) Co-existence also means civic cooperation & contribution. What exactly are you & your fellow RV inhabitants bringing to the table of any value? Please elaborate.


> Wouldn't Palo Alto citizens rather have us parking at Foothill College instead of along El Camino Real or in your neighborhoods?

Unlikely. This is not a viable solution to dealing with transient RVs & their inhabitants as a Palo Alto problem now becomes a Foothill-De Anza Community College District problem. Instead of residential & local law enforcement concerns, it becomes a potentially problematic student & campus police issue.

> This Assembly Bill will enable us to park in community college parking lots while attending classes in order to validate our parking & residential needs.

Are you going to college just to park your RV or going to college to get an actual & useful education?

> This is a win-win for all parties concerned.

Perhaps a win for those trying to buck the system but an overall loss for others with a genuine educational purpose to fulfill.

Personally speaking, I am not buying one iota of these RV dweller parking justifications.


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