‘100-Day Challenge’ aims to house homeless South Bay college students

November 06, 2019
San Jose Mercury News

By Anne Gelhaus

Mission College student Elijah Deliz is no longer homeless, but he is now “housing insecure” after his roommate moved out of their one-bedroom apartment in Santa Clara.

“I’m barely holding on,” he told the crowd assembled for a Nov. 4 press conference at the Santa Clara County administration building in San Jose, where County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg kicked off a 100-day effort to house at least 100 South Bay college students.

The 100-Day Challenge is also intended to keep students like Deliz from falling back into homelessness.

“In Silicon Valley, if you lose your housing, it’s hard to get it back,” said said Sparky Harlan, CEO of the Bill Wilson Center. The nonprofit center, whose programs focus on ending youth and family homelessness, is part of Campbell-based Uplift Family Services. Ellenberg’s district includes the city of Campbell and San Jose’s Cambrian neighborhood.

According to the center’s 2019 Homeless Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, 22 percent of homeless respondents ages 18-25 are enrolled in college. Of those currently experiencing homelessness, 14 percent of respondents noted they are living outside and 10 percent are living in their car. Harlan said that figure is up from 18 percent in 2017.

“The 100-Day Challenge is (meant) to develop a system of care for these students,” she said, adding that housing 100 students is a goal, not a limit.

“We’re not going to turn anyone away,” Harlan said. “If we have 200, we’ll house 200. Right now, we’re creating the initial system.”

Harlan said the goal is to have all involved agencies use the same process to find housing for students. These agencies include the West Valley-Mission Community College District, San Jose State University, Foothill College, the County Office of Supportive Housing and Community Solutions, a San Jose-based nonprofit that serves youth and families in crisis.

Brad Davis, West Valley-Mission Community College District chancellor, said about 2,000 students in his district identify as housing-insecure.

“For a growing number of students in Santa Clara County, housing insecurity presents the largest obstacle to higher education,” Davis said at the press conference. “As rents climb to an all-time high, our students are increasingly priced out of higher education, not by tuition and fees but because they must choose between a roof over their head today or career tomorrow.”