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

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

  1. Go to the food bank so that your family can eat tonight.
  2. 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.

ECMC Foundation and JBAY Issue Campus Grants to Reduce Homelessness and Hunger

The housing crisis in California has escalated over the last decade, with homelessness touching groups once considered immune from it.

College students are one of these groups. According to a 2019 study, 1 in 5 community college students in California experience homelessness during the academic year. Hunger is also growing, with 50% of community college students reporting food insecurity within the last 30 days. Many of these vulnerable students are former foster youth.

JBAY is working to address homelessness and hunger on college campuses. With the support of the ECMC Foundation, JBAY issued seven grants in January 2021 to establish or expand “basic needs centers” which are centralized service centers on college campuses that help students meet their basic needs such as food, housing, clothing, and transportation.

The seven grants, ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 will assist approximately 20,000 students facing food and housing insecurity across California, from San Diego City College in Southern California to San Joaquin Delta College in the Central Valley to Lake Tahoe Community College in the Sierras.

JBAY Education Project Manager Melissa Bond is leading the effort and wrote a publication on basic needs released in October 2020, speaking to basic needs leaders across California and identifying best practices.

“The pandemic has made matters even worse,” said Bond. “The seven campuses selected for grants will prevent students from losing their hard-won academic gains.”

In additional to critically needed funding, JBAY will provide hands-on technical assistance to the seven campuses, with a focus on ensuring that students receive and maintain the financial aid they qualify to receive.