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Legislature urges UC to provide accommodations for homeless students

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Assistant News Editor

OCTOBER 08, 2015

With a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday, the state of California is now urging the University of California and other college campuses to ensure housing facilities for homeless college students.

Assembly Bill 1228 passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate and Assembly, and directs the UC, California State University and California Community College systems to expand accommodations for former foster youth and homeless youth, who are defined by the bill as students under 25 years old who, at any time two years prior to their application to the system, were considered homeless under federal law.

While the Legislature suggested accommodations such as guaranteeing priority housing for these students and on-campus living during school breaks, it does not have direct control over the UC system. Jay Jefferson — legislative assistant to the bill’s author, Assemblymember Mike Gipson, D-Carson — said he hopes the UC Board of Regents will ratify a proposal with similar specifications.

The Students of Concern Committee in the UC Berkeley Division of Student Affairs is one of several resources available to students with financial problems. By creating a strategic plan of action, the committee seeks to assist students who show signs of problematic circumstances.

Another program, Berkeley Hope Scholars, provides mentorship and financial support for former foster youth. The program is a unit of Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence, or CE3, which works to aid seven types of nontraditional students, including former foster youth and first-generation and low-income students.

Berkeley Hope Scholars has helped launch other services for students, including the UC Berkeley Food Security Committee and the UC Global Food Initiative Subcommittee on Food Pantries and Security.

Ruben Canedo, a research and mobilization coordinator at CE3, said he and other leaders have discussed how the campus has identified homeless students in the past and are working to provide an infrastructure for students who have no housing at different points throughout the year.  

“As we continue to move away from Berkeley being a campus that guarantees housing to its students … we’re going to have an increasing number of students whose basic needs for shelter and food aren’t met,” Canedo said.

UCLA student and UC Student Regent Avi Oved said he agreed that housing is an issue within the UC system, referring to students who live in student government buildings and forests at UC Santa Cruz. The city of Santa Cruz ranked second on Realtor.com’s list of most expensive college towns in the country, just behind Berkeley.

Oved added that the bill did not address the needs of middle-income students who had housing before college but, because of the high costs of living, are now homeless, which he said is a large problem.

UC Student Association President Kevin Sabo also supports the aims of the bill but said that while legislators continue to make demands, the university still lacks the funding to decrease housing costs.

Contact Pressly Pratt at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @prezzliray.

OCTOBER 09, 2015