Homeless San Jose Students Have Access to Emergency Beds

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Students at San Jose State University say the school does not provide emergency housing for those in need.

The university agreed this week to indefinitely extend its one-semester, 12-bed emergency program, but students say they need to make an effort to receive services.

“Requiring students to take out loans makes it impossible to get an emergency bed,” Lana Gomez, president of the Student Homeless Alliance, told a campus press conference on Wednesday.

Gomez says the school told him to maximize his loans in order to receive emergency housing, which is why only one bed was used this semester with more than 100 students requesting housing. She said the university must end this policy.

She said the university had agreed to give students 48 hours of emergency accommodation before asking them to maximize their loans, but believes that is not enough.

In 2021, there were at least 4,000 homeless students, or about 11% of the student body, said Scott Myers-Lipton, a professor at SJSU.

“We have to do it right for these students,” he told the San José Spotlight.

Members of the SJSU Student Homeless Alliance advocated for emergency beds for students in need. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Students can request a bed through SJSU Cares, a program dedicated to helping students meet basic needs. The Student Homeless Alliance has fought for years for beds to be provided for homeless students.

University spokesman Kenneth Mashinchi said the SJSU does not require students to take out a loan to receive short-term emergency housing.

“If students need a long-term housing solution, our SJSU Cares Case Managers work with the student to develop an action plan to ensure that an education funding plan is in place. up, ”he told the San José Spotlight. “In some cases, this may include the common practice of taking out loans to pay for expenses, such as housing, that are part of the college’s investment.”

SJSU Cares, which provides resources and services to students facing a financial crisis, received 184 requests for assistance in 2020-2021 and 156 requests this fall, including 103 for housing and resources for the homeless. Mashinchi said that between July and September, the university provided 85 days of temporary emergency housing: 60 through university housing services and 25 using a hotel voucher program.

According to a 2020 agreement between the university and the Student Homeless Alliance, all students who request a bed are supposed to receive one.

“You can’t do that with the existing student loan policy,” Gomez said, adding that three women told him they were at risk of dropping out because of it.

Sparky Harlan, CEO of the Bill Wilson Center, said the university is trying to trick the public into believing it doesn’t have homeless students. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Citizenship issues make it even more difficult for students seeking help. Student Sammi Shinagawa said this should not be required of students looking for safe places to sleep.

“The basic needs of the student body should come first,” she said. “Instead of broken promises, we want to see actions towards change, firm dates, open communication with our students, and efforts to help the struggling population of precarious housing in the ever-growing San Jose state. to grow. “

The Student Homeless Alliance is also calling for a complete restructuring of the SJSU Cares advisory board, exit interviews showing why students were denied services, a new SJSU Cares website and a mobile app.

“If we had an exit interview, we could understand why over 100 students have applied for accommodation at SJSU Cares so far this semester, but only one bed has been used,” Shinagawa said. “We have no idea why students are deprived of their basic needs or if they are getting the help they need… or how effective our efforts have been. “

The alliance previously demanded 10 secure overnight parking spaces and grants for emergency housing students. A 2019 San José Spotlight report found that the university only offered emergency housing to six students.

Sparky Harlan, CEO of the Bill Wilson Center, said California requires housing first for any facility receiving state funding, but the university does not.

“An emergency shelter should be full,” she said. “What’s the point of keeping your center empty?” To make the homeless disappear. This university is trying to tell you that they don’t have homeless students.

Harlan said asking homeless students to maximize their loans means they are racking up debt and are still homeless.

“We have seen more homeless graduates who have maximized loans here than any other school,” she said. “You cannot demand homeless loans. “

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]


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