A state bill from a Silicon Valley legislator could bring hope and help to homeless high school students.
Introduced by state Sen. Dave Cortese, Senate Bill 1341 provides $50 million to $75 million in aid to homeless youth. The bill aims to uplift about 15,000 high school seniors with guaranteed income of $1,000 per month for five months until they begin college, vocational training or enter the workforce. The bill has cleared the state Senate and is headed to the Assembly for approval. The income will be provided from April 2023 to August 2023.
“It’s had quite a bit of support,” Cortese told San José Spotlight. “So far, it’s been moving along and passing with flying colors.”
Teri Olle, California campaign director for Economic Security Project Action, which sponsored the bill, said in a statement that homeless seniors are starting from behind.
“At this pivotal moment in their lives, they have plans, hopes and dreams—they just need the support to achieve them,” he said. “This program would give these struggling students the resources they need to reach their goals and follow their dreams.”
Anthony Majano, president of the Student Homeless Alliance at San Jose State University, said these safety nets are essential for students struggling with housing insecurity. Some of his friends were kicked out of their homes at age 18 and had nowhere to go. This is also an issue for foster youth who age out of their programs without emotional or financial support.
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“It is a very rough transition for a lot of young adults. With little or no assistance, a lot of them will become homeless,” he told San José Spotlight. “College in general is rough, but when you have to worry about where you’ll rest for the night and where your next meal will come from, that adds additional stress, preventing you from dedicating your full attention to your studies.”
Majano said the guaranteed income would provide youth with breathing room to improve their situations.
Cortese hopes focusing on youth will disrupt the cycle of homelessness. But he’s afraid the stipend won’t be enough and instead of being in a dormitory, they’ll end up on the street, in the back of a car or on somebody’s sofa. He sees this as a temporary lifeline.
“As sad as it is that they’re homeless in the first place, there are at least meals and support at the high school level,” Cortese said. “There isn’t the moment they graduate; all of that’s gone.”
Originally, the bill aimed to help San Jose State University students struggling with housing insecurity, but as this would adversely affect their financial aid, it was refocused on graduating high school seniors.
Scott Myers-Lipton, San Jose State University sociology professor, said he’d like the funding to be year-long and federal law to allow universal basic income for college students without them losing financial aid.
“It’s a travesty,” he said. “They should have security so they can get their degrees. They’re the ones who are going to be the leaders of our community, the backbone of our society.”
Myers-Lipton hopes the extra money will help students pay for tuition, books, food and rent during the first year of college.
“We’re hoping it will have a big impact,” he said. “We’re hoping to start them on a really positive step.”
Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said universal basic income pilots are transformative, particularly for transitional age youth and young adults, and allows them to determine how to use the funds to meet their personal needs.
“Being able to do this at a statewide level will show similar positive results in terms of college enrollment and being able to stay in school,” she told San José Spotlight. “We see so often that summer breakdown when costs begin to mount.”
Cortese launched a pilot program as a Santa Clara County supervisor, giving 72 transitional-aged foster youth countywide $1,000 a month. The program started in June 2020 and ran through August 2021. Then Cortese passed a similar statewide program a year later. The launch is still pending.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said foster youth are at high risk for becoming homeless and victims of crime. She said as wards of the community, county officials need to help them succeed the way they would with their own children.
“It’s important to protect children and young people,” she said, “and support them into adulthood.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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