Let homeless students park on campus overnight

September 11, 2019

Get out of bed. Brush. Shower. Eat breakfast. Get in the car. Head to class.

That’s how most days begin for college students. For many homeless students, mornings aren’t that simple. Their daily lives are filled with anxieties. Where will I get my next meal? How will I get to class? Where will I sleep tonight?

They don’t have basic privacy and sleep in the streets or, if possible, in their cars. They may struggle with their academics, doing homework by moonlight or huddled underneath a streetlamp. But our society is structured in a way that makes social mobility impossible without education.

Homeless students should be allowed to park their cars on campus overnight at El Camino College regardless of Assembly Bill 302, also know as the safe lot bill.

The proposed law has moved through the California State Legislature which would, if passed, mandate community colleges to allow homeless students to park their vehicles on campus overnight to sleep.

In a 2018 campus survey that received responses from 1,633 ECC students, 39% experienced housing insecurities while 13% were homeless.

Being able to park their cars in a safe place instead of on a random street corner would give homeless students agency in knowing where they will sleep at night.

Recent amendments made by the Senate Appropriations Committee have weakened the bill’s premise. Colleges within 250 feet of an elementary school are exempt.

It’s easier to opt-out and the implementation date of the bill has been delayed 15 months from April 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021.

ECC already gives away hotel vouchers which is one of the opt-out provisions, allowing the college to claim an exemption.

ECC President Dena Maloney does not think the proposed law will fix the housing and affordability crisis that students are faced with, according to a letter of opposition she wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Maloney believes AB 302 would increase costs at ECC, according to the letter.

She also believes ECC does enough through its initiatives to help students in need and that a parking lot is not sufficient for ECC’s homeless students, according to the letter.

But students that don’t know where they will sleep each night still deserve a safe place to rest. What better place than colleges that claim their campuses are where students belong and where they’ll succeed?

It is harder than ever before to earn a degree. It becomes much more difficult to reach your goals with countless obstacles placed in the way. Many colleges have resources to help students, including those with housing insecurities.

According to a survey by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, which received responses from 40,000 community college students at 57 CA community colleges, 19% of all community college students are homeless, while 60% face housing insecurity.

Orange Coast College (OCC) has made an effort to push for on-campus student housing with 323 units and 814 beds, which is expected to be ready by fall 2020.

Although OCC is using private funds to build housing, by raising the issue, their administration has taken the initiative to put their students first and promote equity.

We know a lot of the money can’t be moved around because several funds are restricted, but ECC can look into private funding like OCC did.

Homeless students deserve more than a parking lot.

The Union understands that AB 302 isn’t a permanent fix, but it is a start that would help homeless students feel safer.

There are 10 parking lots at ECC, with several being able to house more than 190 students. California law, AB 1994, already mandates community colleges give homeless students access to shower facilities. Allowing them to sleep on campus is not a wildly uncalled for progression in bettering services to students who lack basic needs.

Creating temporary housing for students is possible, it’s just not the priority.

Editorials are unsigned, written and voted upon by the editorial board.