Homeless students at California college can now sleep in their cars in parking garage

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(KTLA) – California’s Long Beach City College will allow homeless students to sleep in their vehicles at a secure on-campus parking structure overnight, school officials announced Monday.

The pilot “Safe Parking Program” is the only known program of its kind in the region at a community college, LBCC officials said in a news release. It’s meant to help unhoused students at the college, which has at least 70 students sleeping in their cars each night, according to LBCC District official Dr. Mike Muñoz.

Enrolled students who are homeless will be able to stay at the Pacific Coast Campus parking structure between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. seven nights a week.

They will have access to restrooms and Wi-Fi throughout the night and be able to use the showers at the Pacific Coast Campus in the mornings.

Participating students would also get help from college staff to find more long-term, stable housing, according to LBCC.

FILE – In this June 29, 2021, file photo people ride their bikes past a homeless encampment set up along the boardwalk in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. The share of Americans living in poverty rose slightly as the COVID pandemic shook the economy last year, but massive relief payments pumped out by Congress eased hardship for many, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, Sept. 14. The official poverty measure showed an increase of 1 percentage point in 2020, indicating that 11.4% of Americans were living in poverty. It was the first increase in poverty after five consecutive annual declines. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

“Our goal for this program is that it will serve as a pathway to housing stability for our students,” LBCC Board of Trustees President Uduak-Joe Ntuk said in a statement. “These students would otherwise have to be worrying nightly about their vehicles being broken into, trying not to be seen or bothered, and not having the police called on them, all while keeping up with their coursework. It could be an exhausting situation that makes it more difficult to get ahead.”

Students won’t be able to have partners or children sleeping in the vehicle with them.

The college contracted a security firm to keep watch throughout the duration of the pilot program, until June 30, 2022. 

“If we can help to keep our students safe so they can better focus on their student responsibilities, this program is absolutely worth pursuing,” Muñoz said in a statement.

A study from the University of California, Los Angeles, published late last year found that 1 in 5 California Community College students, 1 in 10 California State University students, and 1 in 20 University of California students were experiencing homelessness.

And including K-12 students, the number of students experiencing homelessness in the state has risen nearly 50% in the last decade, according to the study.

A 2020 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that based on one-night estimates of sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations, 1 in 10 people was experiencing homelessness and staying in sheltered locations, while nearly 4 in 10 were in unsheltered locations, such as on the street.

Researchers said the numbers are likely higher in reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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