SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — It’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to see on a college campus, but some students at San Jose State are asking for a place on school grounds to pitch their tents.
The students are homeless and have limited options.
Xavier Robledo is a fourth year student at San Jose State, but he could easily have dropped out after what happened to him last year.
“I actually lost my apartment during the flood of 2017,” explained Robledo.
He has been homeless ever since, at first living in his car and, more recently, riding his skateboard between a shelter and campus.
“It’s a lot of stress. You have a lot of things you’re doing in school, you’re studying, exams,” said Robledo. “But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. After that you’ve got work, so you can eat, you know, survive.”
Student homelessness was the focus of a Thursday rally by the newly formed Student Homeless Alliance.
An estimated 300 SJSU students sleep in shelters, in camps or in their cars on any given night.
“The fact that a lot of us struggle with housing is no news to us,” said Gigi Bolanos with the alliance
San Jose State has opened several large high rise dorms over the past few years and many apartment buildings surround the campus.
But the high cost of rent keeps many students out.
“The resources that we currently have are not enough,” explained Bolanos. “Although the dorms are available to us, they’re expensive. Not a lot of us can afford $13,000 per year.”
The homeless crisis is hitting SJSU students and faculty. Last year, KPIX 5 spoke to homeless adjunct English Professor Ellen Tara James-Penney about her struggle. She is currently still living out of her car.
“The cost of housing has always been high, but now it’s just astronomical,” said Pastor Scott Wagers with CHAM Deliverance Ministry. “So you have homeless professors, homeless students, homeless workers. And they don’t want to be stigmatized.”
Students are asking the university for a sanctioned legal encampment on campus.
It is a policy similar to what Seattle Pacific University has done for its homeless students.
In a statement, University President Mary Papazian said SJSU is working on solutions and that the school recently created, “SJSU Cares to help students in need and secured a grant to fund a permanent food pantry and emergency housing services.”
Robledo says it’s in the university’s best interest to help students like him.
“You’re not just giving kids money, you are investing into their futures and investing into a better world,” said Robledo.