Student homelessness on the rise

By Alvin Jackson, CONTRIBUTOR

Hayward, Calif. is known as the heart of the Bay Area. With its exceptional educational institutions and proximity to the greater Bay Area, Hayward is not exempt from dealing with the homeless epidemic that plagues the region. The city has had its fair share of housing woes and can not neglect the challenges of a growing city. First came the tech jobs in the neighboring Santa Clara county then came the decrease of low-income residents and students from small urban areas like Hayward.
“I don’t know one person that has not been affected by the housing crisis,” former California State University, East Bay ASI President Myles Watkins said.
The Bay Area is home to the highest homeless population in the country at a whopping 20 percent, according to The Downtown Streets Team, an organization that provides resources to homeless individuals in the Bay Area and Northern Calif. Additionally, a 2018 study by the California State University system claims that 10 percent of students across all 23 campuses are homeless.
In order to bring down the percentage of homeless students, the idea of a roommate mixer has been proposed by ASI. The purpose will be to fill the void of those searching for housing during the school year and the summer months.
This idea was first broached by Watkins during his time as ASI President. The mixer would introduce local landlords to their applicants, and the goal is to remove ageism from the application process. Landlords tend to discriminate against the elderly and college students when selecting tenants, and this mixer could ease the problem and would lay the foundation for housing solutions to be discussed among the attendees.
Through the mixer, landlords and potential tenants would be able to focus on the big picture while alleviating the day to day challenges of living in the Bay Area for students and families.
“Age isn’t a protected class and that’s unfair,” Watkins added. “Ageism is a major barrier to housing, the purpose would be to bring together housing officials and developers to meet the people applying to live in their units.”
Furthermore, the 2018 study by the California State University study revealed that African American students experienced homelessness at higher rates than other students in the system. Men were more likely to be homeless than women and first-generation students of color were also more likely to experience homelessness at any time during their time as a CSU student.
“Graduation rates are rising at the school while Black graduation rates are dropping,” Watkins said.
Recently, a bill was introduced in Sacramento that would allow students to sleep in their cars on campus to avoid confrontations with the police. Another bill on the table, SB50, would dramatically ease the Bay Area housing crisis by mandating certain units be built near mass transit stops and job centers. Considering CSUEB’s location and Hayward’s need for housing, the students would benefit the most from the passing of this bill.
“If it adds more housing I support it, but I would have to look deeper into the bill in order to bring it before the school senate for a resolution in support of it,” Watkins said.
SB50 would upzone areas near mass transit systems. The bill would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by being less dependent on cars for traveling as well as creating the need 3.5 million housing units needed to house the current and future residents of our state. A similar bill would stop rent gouging and ease the financial burden and stress that comes along with trying to make ends meet in the Bay Area.
Hayward is home to hundreds of empty parcels of land. Upzoning them will allow developers to fit more units on land that was previously vacant. Doing so would add thousands of housing units to the city and hundreds would be set aside for low-income residents and students alike. Hayward is home to nearly 200,000 residents, according to a 2017 United States census report, and using empty parcels of land to house the population benefits everyone through healthy vibrant neighborhoods and direct access to community services.
“Empty parcels (of land) are beneficial and will lessen the housing burden on students,” said Madhi Fugfugosh, Chief Financial Advisor to the student body.
Continuing open communication between government officials and student leaders has had an impact on how students will be housed in the future.
“Sharing information on what students need and having them speak up on their issues is what is driving this conversation,” Watkins said.
The continued efforts for housing are lead by student voices with little acknowledgment from the school.
“The school hasn’t done much to address housing,” Watkins added. “Most of the programs we have are due to mandates from the chancellor’s office through an executive order.”
CSUEB has no official endorsement of any of the legislative work being done in Sacramento but it seems we are a step ahead and using an all hands on deck approach to solving the problem by bringing in the city, school staff, and student body officials together to identify housing opportunities in our area.
“The future of CSUEB involves enough student housing. It’s not right to have hundreds of empty acres of land when we have homeless students,” Fugfugosh added.
Before negotiations with city officials began, the campus had no plans for student housing. “The funding isn’t there,” Watkins added. The money issued to the school through the 2025 graduation initiative has decreased this year by nearly $1 million. With the added funding coming to the University through the initiative, none is earmarked for the construction of housing units.
“One-third of the funding goes to staff development while the rest goes to programs and class offerings,” Watkins explained.
With negotiations between the school and city council well underway, the school passed a resolution in support of building student housing units on five parcels that were formerly owned by Caltrans. In the coming years, Watkins has confirmed that nearly 800 units of student housing in a nearby lot next to the Cityview apartment complex near the school will be constructed.