Palomar College Considers Allowing Homeless Students To Sleep Overnight In Campus Parking Lots
Palomar Community College in North San Diego County is considering ways to help students who can’t afford the region’s expensive housing market.
Palomar’s Associated Students’ governing body is pushing for the College District Board to allow students who are homeless to sleep in their cars overnight in a campus parking lot.
Business studies student Anthony White said he slept in his truck for eight months when he started college.
“Nobody wants to have somebody sleeping in their cars,” White said. “But that’s the reality, is that people are sleeping in their cars.”
A study released this year of 57 California community colleges showed 60 percent of the 40,000 students who responded experience housing insecurity, and 19 percent reported experiencing homelessness with no stable place to live.
Palomar is one college that could be affected by a proposed state law that has just passed the California Assembly. AB 302 would require community colleges to provide safe overnight parking on campus by summer of next year for students who qualify as homeless.
White spoke in support of AB 302 in Sacramento, and he hopes students will be allowed to sleep in their cars in Palomar college campus parking lots later this year. He said the students would be required to leave around 5 a.m. to allow faculty to use the lot during the day.
“Parking lots 1 and 2 have several hundred parking spots, able to support as many students as we foresee needing it,” he said, standing next to the main parking lot at the front of the campus. “It’s in close proximity to the bathroom and showers, right up these stairs, and we’re looking at what’s going to be safe and discreet for our students but also for the campus."
White, who was the student vice president last year, walked over to a nearby Food and Nutrition Center that recently opened on campus, where students can pick up food for free. It’s privately funded.
He spoke of plans to develop a “hub” where students who need it could find other kinds of help but admitted that though they have assigned a space, there is no money to staff it.
Palomar College President Dr. Joi Lin Blake said rather than letting students sleep in the parking lot she would rather find other more “respectful” solutions.
“From an ethical and moral perspective," Blake said. "I think it’s an indictment against our society that we’re even having to pass legislation to have folks sleep in the parking lot."
Blake said the college is soliciting donors to help provide subsidized housing for students and hired a consultant to look into building student housing on its 200-acre campus, the first community college to do so. She said the governing board will wait to see what happens in Sacramento and is preparing in case AB 302 passes.
“We are equally concerned about housing insecurity,” she said. “If AB 302 passes, the district has already started to look at how it would be implemented here in terms of location, health and safety issues, security. “
The housing consultant, Scion, concluded in its report that building housing for students and faculty on campus would be feasible. The cost of a student room with shared kitchen and bathroom would be between $745 and $1,100 a month.
White said that’s still out of reach for many community college students. He’s advocating for both new housing on campus and access to parking lots for overnight stays.