Overnight parking for students struggling with homelessness

Mary Donahue, Guest Columnist

Homeless students will be able to sleep in their cars overnight at De Anza and other community college campuses if California Assembly Bill 302 passes.

Decision-makers on campus are already talking about plans to put in place before the bill becomes law.

My ideas:

Since heat can build up in a vehicle quickly, the best shady place could be a lower level of a parking garage; then they are out of the rain at least as they get in and out of their vehicles.

We will need a pet’s policy and an easily available supply of feces cleanup bags and gloves.

We might want to have a separate area for students living in their vehicle with their children.

A quiet hours policy should be developed, with maybe longer hours in a separate parking area for people who want it.

We should have restrooms available overnight, but some would not be appropriate, including the P.E. swimming pool area restrooms where there would be a safety risk.

A.B. 302 specifies that enrolled students who have paid fees and are in good standing during any given quarter can stay overnight.

But would they be allowed to stay over a break between quarters or during the lengthy time between summer and fall quarters?

Since we have quite a few classes all over campus that start at 7:30 a.m., people parked overnight could expect to be awakened early by early-arriving students and staff.

The FIT Camp P.E. class starts at 6 a.m. and on Flea Market Saturdays some of the vendors come quite early, making the Flint Center garage a better choice than the Stelling parking garage to allow the students their sleep.

A Mercury News article about local churches accommodating homeless student parking mentioned “an agreement with rules of behavior that must be signed by our guests . . . The rules prohibit alcohol and drugs, weapons and cooking and camping equipment.

Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., when music and loud voices must cease. The agreement also prohibits cursing, hitting, intimidation and abusive language.”

The churches pre-screen people and give them a placard for their dashboard.

One mentioned a keypad being set up for restrooms, which could also be a good idea at De Anza.

My questions:

What hours are the various rooms with microwaves available for people to use open? Are these hours sufficient, or could one of those locations be open longer hours?

Should people be required to move out each morning and what policy for the potential towing of disabled vehicles should be developed?

Since smoke can stay trapped in a covered area, could we perhaps have a smoking-in-your-vehicle (and expecting windows open some of the time) section, and away from it, a non-smoking section?