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Palomar College. Courtesy photo
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As state bill stalls, Palomar College reups homeless student overnight parking

SAN MARCOS — At its Sept. 10 meeting, the Palomar College Governing Board moved to advance a motion proposed by student representative Linus Smith to create a working group to consider overnight parking for its homeless students.

The proposal had previously come before the Governing Board at a meeting in May, apparently tabled as Assembly Bill 302 wove its way through the California Legislature. AB 302 would have created a state mandate for community colleges to provide overnight parking space for its homeless students to sleep in their cars. But it was recently shelved after its author had irreconcilable disagreements about amendments made to the bill as it moved through committees.

In introducing the concept, Smith said that the Palomar Faculty Federation — the union representing the college’s professoriate — had already endorsed the idea. After he spoke, so too did trustee Nina Deerfield and everyone else on the board, though others had more reservations than Deerfield.

Deerfield noted that she was “100% behind the proposal.” She stated that if the college thought it was important enough to provide a food shelter for its economically precarious students, then having a place to sleep is of equal importance.

Trustees Nancy Ann Hensch pointed to the Pandora’s Box effect, or creating even more problems than existed prior to the onset of the program. Some of them, she said, could be the possibility of having to turn away non-student homeless individuals and issues of legal liability if incidents go awry during overnight parking time periods.

Trustee John Halcón spoke about his own experience living in his car for several weeks at a time while a graduate student at the UC Santa Barbara. Halcón said he often slept at gas stations and would shower at the university gym to make ends meet. And so, he expressed solidarity with the cause, but with caveats.

“First of all, we have the four campuses, and every one of those places is going to need this service,” said Halcón, also pointing to the expenses associated with paying for security to oversee the parking lot overnight.

“The question becomes, what are the resources needed to ensure the security of our students?” Halcón asked.

Trustee Norma Miyamoto said that were the program to start tomorrow, she would not sign onto it, due to a slew of pressing concerns. She said she believes a working group could aid in quelling at least some of that trepidation because the “questions are varied and the issues are complex” and “those questions need to be examined.”

After hearing the takes of the various Board of Governors members, Palomar College President Joi Lin Blake said she would next speak to the staff of the school’s Student Services division to get the ball rolling on creating such a working group.

Anthony White, a Palomar College formerly homeless student who has advocated in support of the program and for AB 302, said he hopes the college moves forward on such a plan.

“You don’t need permission to do this, that’s the thing. AB 302 wasn’t someone giving the colleges permission to offer this kind of program,” said White. “It was telling they that they had to. And so now that the bill is no longer in place to make this absolutely necessary change, the other colleges should still realize that they have the choice to do this. They don’t have to get their arm twisting into supporting a program like this.”