Posts

JBAY Testifies at Assembly Hearing to Ensure Student Basic Needs Are Met

Here’s a quick student quiz. Answer A or B:

A. Go to the food bank so that your family can eat tonight.

B. Take the classes that mean by 2025 you will no longer need to go to food banks.

You can only choose one and you have to decide now.

That’s the kind of choice that tens of thousands of California college students make every day. John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) believes there is a clear answer to that painful dilemma: stop asking students to choose between their education and their basic needs.

That’s why JBAY testified at a California State Assembly Budget Subcommittee meeting on February 1, advocating for long-term funding for student basic needs centers. These centers are centralized service centers on campus where students can receive assistance with their “basic needs” such as food, housing, clothing, assistance with child care and transportation.

Students who have spent time in foster care are twice as likely as other students to experience homelessness and food insecurity. For them, campus basic needs centers provide a lifeline. This point was made by JBAY Youth Advocate Christina Torrez.

“I spent my childhood in and out of the foster care system and don’t have the same access to family support that many other students have to fall back on when challenges arise,” Christina told the hearing.

“During my time in college, I have struggled with not only homelessness but having enough money for food, buying diapers, and paying for my children’s medication. To get food, I would have to go to food pantries and would take several buses to get there. As a student, I believe that having a dedicated source of on-going funding to ensure that every campus can support students like me with accessing basic things like food, housing, diapers, and transportation is necessary to make sure that all students have an equal chance to go to college.”

Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Chair of Budget Subcommittee, ended the hearing by saying: “We hear you loud and clear, and many of these issues related to basic needs will be addressed in the coming weeks and months.”

JBAY will be working to ensure that students who have experienced foster care or homelessness continue to be heard by our legislators in Sacramento.

JBAY Gears Up for Ambitious and Challenging Year of Policy Change

It’s Thanksgiving week, but at John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY), we are already busy thinking about the New Year, when the California State Legislature will return and we can get back to the important work of improving policies for youth who have been homeless or in foster care. In 2021, we’ll be focusing on our three main issues: housing, education and health.

In housing, we’ll be fighting to maintain funding for youth who become homeless after exiting foster care by sustaining the Transitional Housing Program. The program is currently scheduled to end in December 2021, despite its effectiveness and the tremendous need for it: a recent study of former foster youth in California found that over a thousand youth are homeless and waiting for housing.

In education, JBAY will be focused on ensuring the most vulnerable young adults succeed in higher education, which is a critical path to long-term economic security. First, we are proposing to expand access to NextUp, a student support program at 45 community colleges. The program is highly effective, but its reach is limited to a narrow subset of foster youth. We’ll work to modify the eligibility to make an estimated 1,000 additional young people able to receive the support they need.

Also in education, JBAY will assist the tens of thousands of college students struggling with homelessness and food insecurity by advocating for the creation of basic needs centers across the state. These “one-stop-shops” offer students food, housing referrals, help with financial aid and more. The data show that helping students with these traditionally non-academic needs is critical if we want them to maintain enrollment and graduate.

Finally, in health, we will work to ensure youth in foster care have access to reproductive and sexual health services.

Pressing for these kinds of changes is never easy and it certainly won’t be in 2021, with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the related economic impact on the state budget. But we know that young people need us more than ever. Unlike most youth and young adults, those who have been homeless or in foster care don’t have the benefit of parents or an extended family to assist them during this challenging time. Thank you to JBAY supporters who make this work possible. Next stop: Sacramento!