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Assemblywoman Anna Caballero spoke at a news conference at Fresno State last week to introduce Assembly Bill 2784, which aims to combat homelessness among college students. (Alex Soto/The Collegian)

New bill could offer loans to combat student homelessness

Assemblywoman Anna Caballero spoke at a news conference at Fresno State last week to introduce Assembly Bill 2784, which aims to combat homelessness among college students.

Sponsored by the California State Student Association, AB 2784 will implement the Emergency Student Housing Loan Program. It would offer a loan for housing costs that would be forgiven if a student completes the academic semester during which the loan was awarded, Caballero said. The program would pilot at three colleges within the California State University system.

“For years, we have acted as if college students were immune to homelessness, that they had the resources and that the community had the housing availability to meet the student’s housing needs, but this is no longer the case,” Caballero said.

Caballero emphasized the prevalence of homelessness at CSU campuses. According to a 2018 CSU study of basic needs, she said, 10.9 percent of students have experienced homelessness one or more times within the past 12 months.

“California’s future depends on effectively preparing our young people to meet workforce demand,” Caballero said. “We have to put an end to student homelessness, and AB 2784 is a beginning and it’s a modest investment to achieve this goal and really to create a framework for the rest of the CSU campuses to be able to do the same thing.”

Demi Wack, the vice president of external affairs for Associated Students, Inc., and a candidate for ASI president, said that she wished a student who has experienced homelessness to speak at the press conference. While the students she met with supported AB 2784, they were not willing to speak, she said.

“We cannot expect students to focus on their homework and graduating in four years when they don’t even know where they’re sleeping that night,” Wack said.

If passed, the Emergency Student Housing Loan Program will begin at three CSU campuses funded by money from other housing bills or the general fund, said Jared Giarrusso, assistant director of the office of government relations for the Cal State Student Association. The three college campuses that the program will be tested on will be determined through an application process, Giarrusso said.

“We wanted to make sure that the campuses that wanted to do this program really wanted to because it does take a lot of work, and we’re hoping that that work is absorbed by the already existing campus resources,” Giarrusso said.