Homeless California college students can’t sleep on campus. Lawmaker pulls housing crisis bill

A California lawmaker this week chided opponents for stigmatizing the homeless as he pulled a proposal that would have allowed community college students to sleep in campus parking lots.

Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, said he revive his proposal, Assembly Bill 302, next year rather than let it move forward after top Democratic lawmakers amended it in a manner that he believed weakened it.

The bill originally would have mandated California community colleges to open up their lots overnight to students in good standing beginning in 2020, but the bill was amended to go into effect July 1, 2021.

The bill further would not apply to any campus “providing one or more of three specified types of homeless student housing services.”

Finally, the bill would not apply to any campus within 250 feet of an elementary school.

In pulling the bill from consideration, Berman encouraged lawmakers to show compassion to the homeless.

“Homeless students are not pedophiles that need to be kept away from children. They are men and women — many of them barely adults themselves — who are trying to improve their lives by obtaining a better education. They should be celebrated, not stigmatized,” Berman said in a statement.

Berman said that without a safe place to stay, homeless students “are forced into dark alleyways and industrial parks, where they are most vulnerable to harm.”

The bill was opposed by several community colleges, as well as the Association of California Community College Administrators.

The Kern, San Bernadino, San Diego, San Francisco and Yuba community college districts criticized the bill in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Rather than providing a solution for homeless students, this measure masks the inequitable distribution of financial aid and funding resources for community colleges and the students that they serve,” the letter said, adding that community colleges serve the greatest proportion of low-income students of color, yet receive less funding than the University of California or California State University systems.

“This bill, by not including UC and CSU sends a message that parking lots are good enough for community college students but not for students attending our four-year public counterparts.”

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.