Foothill College students are taking the housing crisis into their own hands.
Eoin O’Farrell, a student at Foothill, helped start Bay Area Students for Affordable Housing because he saw firsthand the desperate need for housing. The group’s mission is twofold: advocate for housing resources and connect homeless students with housing.
“If we even got one student who’s homeless into housing, that would be great,” O’Farrell said. “We want to help any student who needs help, and be part of the advocacy that leads to affordable housing in this area.”
O’Farrell knows that many Foothill students need housing, whether it’s because they’re currently homeless or they’re living in an abusive situation and can’t afford to move. During the two weeks when the organization was actively posting flyers and publicizing itself, approximately 12 students reached out to Bay Area Students for Affordable Housing to say that they needed help finding housing. The organization is run by student volunteers, primarily those involved with the student government at Foothill.
A representative of Foothill College said they don’t keep track of how many students are homeless. Nationwide, 13-14 percent of community college students are homeless, according to a survey from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab. In the Bay Area, where rents are some of the highest in the country, the problem might be even deeper.
One of the students involved in the Foothill project, Matthew Bodo, has experienced homelessness. When O’Farrell leaves Foothill College, Bodo will be taking over his position in student government and in the housing program.
“The people in charge of this are not doing this because it’s interesting, they’re doing this because it affects them and their loved ones,” O’Farrell said.
A student-run initiative can be difficult considering the student volunteers running the organizations will only attend Foothill College for two or three years, but O’Farrell said a community college is different because the students often grew up in the area, so they’re invested in the community in the long run. He’s confident that when he transfers to UC Berkeley in the fall, the organization’s momentum will not be lost.
Bay Area Students for Affordable Housing is only a few months old, and members haven’t yet found someone willing to rent out a room, but they do have a database of students who are homeless or at risk of being homeless who have said they need support. So far, they have been connecting those students to other housing resources, but they would like to find housing for them.
“What we need the most is people who are willing to rent out a room at below-market rates and help out someone who’s doing their best to get an education,” O’Farrell said. “Community college is a path for people who are pursuing social mobility. This is an investment in the community’s future.”