Homeless students to have access to showers

Photo/Anthony Victoria: Student Senate of California Community Colleges Region IX Representative Jerry Sirotnak, right, and San Bernardino Valley College student representatives Rocio Aguayo, left, and Sadia Khan, center, inspecting the showers at SBVC.
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Homeless students at community colleges across the state will now have access to shower facilities.

Last Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1995, which mandates  two-year colleges to make shower facilities available to homeless students enrolled at their campuses.

Leaders at San Bernardino Valley College are attempting to continue the momentum gained from the bill’s implementation to establish a food pantry on campus.

“I’ve met with several homeless students on campus,” explained Sadia Khan, Student Support Services Senator at SBVC. “Many of their concerns deal with food, hygiene, and school supplies. It’s important we provide them the support they need.”

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According to the bill’s language, at least two hours of operation must be provided to homeless students for shower use. Individual districts can decide on the minimum requirement enrolled students must have to qualify.

Courtesy Photos: Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) and Santa Barbara City College student Nicholas Steil were instrumental in pushing for AB 1995.
Courtesy Photos: Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) and Santa Barbara City College student Nicholas Steil were instrumental in pushing for AB 1995.

College leaders–mostly aligned with the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC) said they spent months lobbying for the bill. Former SSCCC Vice-President of Legislative Affairs Alex Rojo-Galeano explained they did so with no financial resources.

“We have a passion to aim to remove barriers for our students,” said Rojo-Galeano. “Regardless of socioeconomic status, one should have the opportunity to go to college.”

The two main advocates of the legislation, Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) and SSCCC’s Nicholas Steil, both experienced homelessness as students at Santa Barbara City College.

“This bill removes a major obstacle to attending class for some people,” Williams said. “Students won’t have to skip class because of personal insecurities or fear about class acceptance if they are able to shower on campus.”

Despite having two jobs, SBVC student Jessica Robledo said Medical bills and other expenses keep her from renting an apartment or room. The 28-year-old Biology student said she’s still been able to receive A’s in her courses, but at times struggles to cope with insecurities of being homeless.

“I don’t really have access to toiletries sometimes,” she said. “But I still have to go to class. It is difficult though.”

Jerry Sirotnak, a Region IX SSCCC representative, said one of the next steps is to gather data on the number of homeless students on campus in order to present to the district that there is a need for the shower program.

“We’re expecting to have a little bit of a push back,” Sirotnak expressed. “There’s a common notion that this isn’t happening here. The proof comes down to reaching out to individual students. It’s a huge challenge we’re going to be facing in the next few months.”

Crafton Hills College Associated Student Government President Amber Snow explained that  fellow student leaders will “greatly” benefit from the program.

“I’ve seen them recycle between two or three different sets of clothing,” Snow said. “[AB 1995] is important because we have a homeless student population that will greatly benefit from it.”

San Bernardino Community College District Vice-President Joseph Williams believes another challenge may be ensuring people are not abusing shower facilities. Nonetheless, he said he is supportive of the program.

“There’s nothing like people being comfortable,” Williams said. “I would like to see these people get access to resources, especially if they’re here trying to do something.”

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