California colleges to guarantee housing for homeless students.
On Oct. 7, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1228 into law. It encourages the University of California (UC), California State University (CSU) and California Community College (CCC) systems to work towards guaranteeing housing for homeless college students.
According to the website of Mike Gipson, assemblymember and author of the bill, “[The bill] request[s] the [UC] and require[s] the [CSU] campuses to set aside housing for current and former homeless youth. [It] also seeks to allow these units to remain open during holidays.”
Joyce Cleaver, the financial aid information manager at UC Davis, said that since the bill has only recently passed, the UC system’s response to the bill is still being discussed.
“While this mostly affects housing, we anticipate that the UC’s Office of the President will be providing information on behalf of the campuses regarding admissions and financial aid opportunities,” Cleaver said.
Currently, UC Davis has a Guardian Scholars Program to help students from foster care systems. Through this program, students receive help with finances and housing in addition to academic advising and mentoring.
According to Rebecca Trounson of UC Davis’ media relations department, UC campuses already work to support homeless students in a variety of ways.
“UC campuses work with students who identify as being homeless by providing them with emergency financial support, temporary housing, food and connecting them with community resources,” Trounson said. “Each campus has case managers or social workers in place to work with distressed students and students identified as being homeless will often be directly referred to these resources.”
Sam Alavi, director of the ASUCD Office of Advocacy and Student Representation, believes that AB 1228 has great potential to help homeless students.
“The signing of AB 1228 is definitely an important step to making sure that homeless students have the opportunity to both survive and thrive in higher education,” Alavi said. “It has been great to see students rally around this legislation, since homelessness is an issue that impacts so many students across the UC. All the time, I hear about students living on the streets, out of their cars and sleeping in their friends’ living rooms since housing is so expensive and inaccessible.”
Since the legislature lacks direct control over the UC system, this bill cannot force the UC campuses to follow its suggestions of priority housing and housing during school breaks for homeless students. Therefore, the bill can only request compliance.
“Because of the autonomy of the UC Regents, the University of California cannot be forced to support homeless students,” Alavi said. “I hope not only that the UC [system] chooses to do so regardless of whether or not it’s a mandate, but I also hope that this starts a larger conversation about why the UC Regents, who are not elected or held accountable to students, are exempt from having to implement legislation that aims to support students.”