With an estimated 4,000 students at San Jose State sleeping in their cars, crashing on couches or sneaking naps in the library, university leaders have unveiled a slew of initiatives to help put roofs over the heads of homeless students.
During a Monday morning presser at the Diaz Compean Student Union, SJSU President Mary Papazian announced that the university has secured $3.1 million in grants from the California State University Chancellor’s Office to tackle housing insecurity.
The largest share of the funding—$2.6 million—will be divided among the university and local non-profits for rapid re-housing. Another $400,332 will get earmarked to help pay for students’ basic needs, while the remaining $125,000 will fund mental health services.
“Comprehensive solutions require comprehensive support,” Papazian said of the plan.
The university also plans to establish a pilot program this fall that sets aside 12 or more beds for emergency housing, expands rapid re-housing and rental assistance for students and opens a dedicated SJSU Cares space in Clark Hall. The three initiatives stem from advocacy efforts by the Student Homeless Alliance (SHA)—an activist group organizers dedicated to solving the university’s homelessness crisis.
“Having our voices heard means the world to us,” SHA Vice President Briena Brown said. “This program announced today may have been created at some point in the future, but it is happening now, because of us the students.”
Members from SHA will also serve on the university’s Basic Needs Advisory Board so that “student voices guide SJSU’s next steps.” Brown said SHA aims to make the emergency bed program permanent, provide more emergency beds to students and increase the amount of money available for rapid re-housing and rental help.
State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) also announced this week that California will move forward with transferring an underutilized government-owned facility to the university. The Alfred E. Alquist building at 100 Paseo de San Antonio in downtown San Jose could accommodate anywhere from 800 to 1,200 housing units for faculty, students and other university staff. Last year, Beall and Kalra secured $250,000 from the state to develop a housing plan for the site.
“We have an urban campus that’s almost impossible to expand to meet the needs of the growing community,” Beall said. “But we have an opportunity with this Alquist building.”
The push to demolish the old state building to construct housing is part of a wider effort led by Beall. Last year, the veteran legislator authored SB 6, which would create a database of underutilized state-owned properties.
“I think there’s going to be an opportunity for more sites and more affordable housing projects throughout the state,” Beall explained. “I think all the universities and community colleges need affordable housing. This homeless thing with students I think [is] literally getting out of hand.”
Papazian said she hopes that students and faculty will be able to move in the new building—which will also include parking, retail and eateries—by 2025.