Homeless college students to sleep in cars on campus?

College students may soon be allowed to sleep in their vehicles overnight on campuses across the state, if a new bill being reviewed by the State Assembly becomes a law.

The parking proposal measure—proposed by a Palo Alto assembly member to help address a component of the larger homelessness epidemic—would kick in July 1, 2020. The State Assembly’s higher education committee reviewed the bill at a recent session.

“We are aware of this bill. It has not yet been passed into law, but If it does, it will apply to all California community colleges, including Gavilan,” said Gavilan spokesperson Jan Bernstein-Chargin.

Overnight parking is not currently allowed on the Gavilan campus, Bernstein-Chargin noted.

According to multiple news reports, a survey conducted by the Hope Center concluded that nearly 20 percent of California community college students surveyed reported experiencing homelessness within the past year.

“Existing law requires a community college campus that has shower facilities for student use to grant access, as specified, to those facilities to any homeless student who is enrolled in coursework, has paid enrollment fees and is in good standing with the community college district, and requires the community college to determine a plan of action to implement this requirement,” according to the legislative digest for AB302.

The new bill would apply to the same group of students “for the purpose of sleeping in the student’s vehicle overnight.”

Each college’s governing boards would “determine a plan of action to implement this requirement, as specified” and “impose a state-mandated local program.”

Other parameters of the bill would call for participants to submit an overnight parking form and liability waiver in order to access the overnight parking facilities.

“It is an issue for the students involved; they have a difficult time getting a good night’s rest, and face the possibility of being ticketed or awakened during the night if they don’t have a designated place to park,” said Bernstein-Chargin, also a homeless advocate for the Compassion Center in Gilroy. “The issue for the college is in supporting these students and helping them succeed.”

The Hope Center surveyed nearly 40,000 students at 57 community colleges, and found more than half felt insecure about their housing situations the previous year, according to one news report.

The bill is sponsored by State Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto).