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Crunched for housing: SJSU homeless students demand assistance

By Imran Shaikh Nov. 8, 2021

Despite San Jose State University’s (SJSU) promises to alleviate its housing crisis, many college students are struggling to afford shelter. Consequently, students are forced to sleep in cars, motels or homeless encampments—contrasting from the conventional dorms and apartments most college students live in. Due to the lack of affordable housing, 41.5% of SJSU students report facing housing insecurity, according to Mercury News.

A 2021 survey released by SJSU Cares, San Jose State University’s basic needs program, concluded that 29.6% of students have experienced food insecurity, 41.5% suffered through housing insecurity and 11.2% have been homeless.

“Inflation on staple goods like petrol, basic foods, housing costs and car rentals could have affected SJSU’s homeless rates. Also, the rate of increase in property value and rent make it increasingly difficult for students to have shelter” Sophomore Parsa Saraydarpour said.

As a result, SJSU Cares received 156 requests for financial aid, 103 of which were for housing and homeless resources, this fall. To help students, the university provided them with 85 days of temporary housing. In addition, in October, the university opened an assistance center purely for SJSU Cares to provide short-term and emergency housing to students and connect them with food assistance, healthcare and mental health support services.

While SJSU is trying to alleviate the housing crisis, there are many challenges that are inhibiting students’ ability to seek shelter. For example, the president of the Student Homeless Alliance (SHA)—a student activist group that seeks to address student homelessness—explains that the university is requiring students to maximize their student loans before providing them access to beds. Therefore, lower income students end up owing the school more money even though they are already struggling to get by.

Kailey Hu Art

In contrast, university spokesperson Kenneth Mashinchi countered this claim, explaining that in some cases, to assist students with a long-term housing solution, the practice of taking out loans is necessary. These loans would be used to pay for living expenses. Mashinchi further clarified that if SJSU provided free long-term housing to certain students but not others, this situation would become an issue of equity relative to other students.

“It is important to find a happy medium where both students and university administrators are satisfied. Ultimately, the goal is to provide support to homeless students, but this presents the issue of figuring out how to financially manage the situation,” Senior Liya Babayants said.

Due to the increasing number of students experiencing homelessness, the SHA demands additional actions from the university. Mercury News reports that the organization requested the university to require students using SJSU Cares to take a mandatory exit interview to give insight into the program’s effectiveness. Moreover, the alliance wants to change the structure of the Advisory Board Committee that oversees SJSU Cares to provide more emphasis on students’ voices, redesign the SJSU Cares website to make information more easily accessible and stop forcing students to maximize their student debt before looking for emergency housing assistance.

“Providing students with a greater voice would have the most positive impact on the homeless situation. With new policies, the university can review suggestions and determine whether they are necessary or not to improve students’ situations,” Freshman Ben Kim said.

This more aggressive push for immediate solutions may be influenced by SJSU’s president Mary Papazian. In January 2020, Papazian launched housing programs that totaled over 3 million dollars.

She described the student homeless crisis as “one of the most urgent issues of our time.” For this reason, the SHA was eager to work with her.

However, after news that the university had mishandled sexual assault incidents between athletes and trainers from as far back as 2009, Papazian announced she would resign at the end of the year. The SHA worries that because she is leaving, SJSU may need to start from scratch on their initiatives to minimize homelessness. To mitigate this issue, the SHA has been trying to solve as many problems as possible before Papazian leaves.

Currently, the SHA is having some success through the extension of the 12-bed program, but the alliance still expects more from SJSU Cares. In the future, the SHA hopes to lead more initiatives that will help curb the number of SJSU students who are unable to afford housing.


About the Contributors

Imran Shaikh

Staff Writer

Imran Shaikh is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. When he has free time he likes to watch anime, hang out with his friends, and catch up on some much needed sleep.

Kailey Hu


Kailey Hu is a junior at Leland High school and an artist for The Charger account. Some of her hobbies consist of drawing birds, reading novels, watching Youtube/Twitch, and eating good food.

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