SALINAS, Calif. (KION-TV)- A new policy that went into effect on July 1 requires community colleges in California to hire a basic needs coordinator and establish a basic needs hub for students.
According to AB 132, the basic needs coordinator would help connect students to housing, mental health, food, and other services. The bill also requires a center to be set up and made available to students.
Hartnell College offers programs to help students with housing and food challenges. The college has been working on its basic needs center all summer and hopes the center could expand its reach.
Apolonia Preciado Castillo, the student president at Hartnell College, created the Hartnell Cupboard after she saw a food necessity on campus.
“We provide 100 to 150 bags a week for free for students,” said Preciado Castillo. “I'm trying to get rid of that stigma when you're hungry, and you have a long day. The majority of our students are coming from an eight-hour shift to having to take classes.”
The Hartnell Cupboard is just one of the resources to help students. The college hopes to break barriers with its basic needs center.
“Our goal is to have student ambassadors that can welcome the students,” said Augustine Nevarez, the Director of Student Affairs at Hartnell College. “They see a familiar face such as theirs, and we begin the intake process that way.”
Hartnell College is working to determine where the basic needs center will be on its campus. But plans to have it ready once the fall semester starts.
The college wants to focus first on housing and food insecurity. But as the center becomes more developed over time, the college also wants to address other challenges students face.
“As we develop the basic needs center, we'll add more services,” said Nevarez. “Such as childcare, support with legal services, drug and substance use.”
To help students get to and from class, Hartnell college signed a five year deal with MST to give its students free transportation.
Preciado Castillo believes the basic needs center, like the Hartnell Cupboard, will be one of the most essential programs.
“We have also been supporting the mental health aspect of it,” said Preciado Castillo. “So both those ideas tend to correlate with basic needs and everything that's going to be provided for that.”
KION reached out to Cabrillo College in Aptos. The college said it's basic needs center has been up and running since 2019 and continues to receive funding from the state.
Dr. Michelle Donohue, Dean of Student Services at Cabrillo College, said, “Our Basic Needs Center has continued to support students at both our Watsonville and Aptos campuses with Fresh Markets, Resource Spots equipped with snacks and toiletries/school supplies, and our Food Pantries.”
Dr. Donohue adds that when a student faces housing insecurity, they meet with staff to help determine if they’re eligible for housing grants.
Cabrillo College did have a basic needs coordinator who worked at the college for five years but has since left. That position is now open and looking to be filled.