Andrew West / USATODAY

Homeless College Students Are Sleeping In Their Cars

A new bill wants to keep them safe overnight on campus.

Margie Shafer
February 09, 2019 - 8:30 am

In a reflection of just how dire the state’s housing crisis has become for its young residents, a Palo Alto legislator has proposed allowing community college students to sleep overnight in their cars in school parking lots. 

Assembly Marc Berman calls it Safe Lot legislation, and it would require the state’s community colleges to give homeless students access to their parking lots and facilities—so long as that student is in good standing with the college.

“Some of [the students> already sleep in their cars on campus,” Berman told KCBS Radio, where it’s not permitted, and the students are being ticketed by campus security.

He said surveys show that the number of students sleeping in their cars in California is in the tens of thousands, and around 20 percent of community college students in Los Angeles went through a period of homelessness in the prior year, he noted.

Berman said that students are staying in the shadows, out of people’s way, to avoid being ticketed—alleys and industrial parks where “they’re even more vulnerable.”

An intern in Berman’s Los Altos office, who has friends who are homeless, suggested the idea. Berman insisted that the long-term solution is to build more housing, which he calls a “desperate” need for the state. But until then, he hopes the measure can help fill in the state’s serious gaps.

“Our community colleges already have parking lots, they already have restroom facilities, and a lot of them already have 24/7 security,” said Berman. “So, the pieces are in place.”

If passed, Assembly Bill 302 would take effect in 2020, and allow community college districts to determine how best to implement the program.