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Senate bill proposes secure housing options, services to help homeless students

If passed, Senate Bill 568 would require some colleges and universities to partner with local homeless service agencies, facilitate access to available local housing resources and ensure homeless students are receiving all available financial aid. (Kitty Hu/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Dawit Tefera

May 29, 2019 12:13 a.m.

A California senate bill will provide housing options and services to help homeless students transition into stable housing if passed.

Senate Bill 568 will create the College-Focused Rapid Rehousing Program, which will link California’s homeless college students to housing resources in their community.

The bill will require colleges and universities that receive state funding to partner with local homeless service agencies, facilitate access to available local housing resources and ensure homeless students are receiving all available financial aid.

Alex Norring, the legislative director for California state Sen. Richard Roth who proposed the bill, said California’s housing crisis requires immediate attention.

“This bill is a targeted intervention that allows students to focus on their studies rather than where they will sleep at night,” Norring said.

A study by California State University found that 11% of college students reported being homeless one or more times in the last year. A University of California study showed 5% of survey respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point during their enrollment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised May budget provided an additional $3.5 million to the UC to implement rapid rehousing programs, Norring said. The current version of SB 568 would provide $9 million in funding to community colleges to help address student homelessness, he added.

“The Senate recently passed SB 568 with broad bipartisan support, and there is a lot of momentum behind addressing this crisis,” Norring said. “Given the commitments of funding to this cause, I am hopeful this bill will pass and we can start to provide additional resources to our vulnerable students.”

Student homelessness requires separate solutions from general countywide or statewide homelessness, said Paavo Monkkonen, an associate professor of urban planning and public policy.

Monkkonen said funding for housing support is limited and goes to people who demonstrate the most need, and college students that have been accepted into a university might not fall into that category because they are less likely to fall below the poverty line.

He said he thinks colleges should focus more on implementing their own housing initiatives to support homeless students instead of relying on state or federal funding because most students wouldn’t qualify for state or federal housing support.

“Putting students in the general homelessness pipeline doesn’t sound like a great idea, and instead we should give a new chunk of subsidies to students for aid and let students figure it out on their own,” Monkkonen said.

Monkkonen added he thinks colleges should be the ones primarily responsible for helping college students with housing support because they are more equipped to serve the specific needs of homeless students.

UC spokesperson Sarah McBride said the UC has not taken a position on the bill.

“The University has been proactively examining the housing challenges students face as part of our comprehensive approach to student well-being and supports the governor’s proposed $3.5 million in ongoing funds to UC for rapid rehousing services,” she said.

Norring said Roth and his staff are working with Newsom and his administration to ensure funding in the proposed 2019-2020 budget is allocated to help alleviate student homelessness.

“California’s housing crisis requires immediate attention, especially for our college students who are already under enough stress,” Norring said.

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Dawit Tefera
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