SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose State University and the State of California have reached a landmark agreement that will turn an old state building near campus into affordable housing for students, staff and faculty.
The agreement is part of a larger plan to address the campus’s homeless crisis and was spurred by student activists.
“All you need is just a group of passionate students who are willing to do what they can, to speak out and be loud for a good cause,” said Briena Brown, Vice President of the Student Homeless Alliance.
Students started organizing around the homeless issue in a sociology class taught by Dr. Scott Myers-Lipton. The movement later went campus-wide after reports that 13 percent of San Jose State Students had recently experienced homelessness and would often take drastic measures to find shelter.
“Students would sleep in their cars or in the Martin Luther King Library, and stay in shelters for a night or two,” said Maggie Young, a formerly homeless student and single mother.
Students presented a list of demands, some of which are now being adopted.
“They have been clear, they have been dedicated persistent, but they have also been willing to move from just activism to actually working with us for solutions,” said Dr. Mary Papazian, President of San Jose State University.
The students calls were also heard by state legislators who authored a bill to transform the under-utilized Alfred Alquist state office building near campus into an affordable housing complex for 800 to 1,200 graduate students, faculty and staff.
It’s an idea that could be replicated in other cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“I think you are going to see a lot more of these kinds of projects,” said State Senator Jim Beall.
The university also received 3 million dollars in state grants which will be used to centralizea crisis counseling center called SJSU Cares and set aside 12 beds on campus for short term emergency shelter for students.
“This is a great place to start. It will have a real impact,” Dr. Papazian said.
Some of the solutions are happening now, others will begin within weeks or months, officials said.
But transforming the state office building property willtake about 5 years because the old building will be demolished and a new housing structure will be built in its place.