Santa Clara County homeless students to get guaranteed income
State Sen. Dave Cortese speaks about a guaranteed basic income pilot program for homeless students in Santa Clara County on July 7, 2023. Photo by Julia Forrest.

    Karen Tanveer is a recent high school graduate, except unlike some of her peers, she has dealt with homelessness her whole life. But a new county guaranteed income program will give local students like her financial relief.

    Santa Clara County is set to give 50 homeless high school students $1,200 for three months, as well as peer and financial mentoring, to help them transition to college or a career. The pilot program, created by state Sen. Dave Cortese and Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, is funded with $3 million from the 2023-24 state budget and will launch in summer 2024.

    “This is a (turning) point for kids that are low income, because they don’t necessarily have all the tools to make it on their own,” Tanveer, 18, told San José Spotlight. “A lot of the times that support is not there.”

    San Jose is the No. 1 city in the nation for youth homelessness. A study earlier this year found there are nearly 85 homeless residents between 18 and 24 years old for every 100,000 residents. About 270,000 K-12 students across the state have experienced homelessness, according to a 2020 report. Approximately 15,000 of those students were high school seniors.

    “What I want to see is that at the end of the three-month period, these students can all point to a specific trajectory that they are now following as a result of having three months of financial support,” Ellenberg told San José Spotlight.

    The county’s guaranteed income program is based on Senate Bill 333, authored by Cortese, which is now pending approval in the state Assembly. The original bill, which failed in 2022, wanted to provide $1,000 a month to about 15,000 high school seniors statewide who experienced homelessness, and would last about five months between graduation and when the student began college, vocational training or started in the workforce.

    The bill was first sparked by the 2021 Silicon Valley Pain Index, which found that about 11% of California State University students experienced homelessness at some point during college. The annual report centers around racial discrimination and income inequality in the area.

    “(Guaranteed basic income) is really how you eradicate homelessness,” Cortese told San José Spotlight. “I don’t want this to wait another year, two years, three years. Let’s be first in the nation right here.”

    Santa Clara County previously launched a first-in-the-nation basic income program for foster youth moving out of the foster care system in 2020. It gave 72 youth $1,000 a month. The idea was first presented by Cortese when he was on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 2019.

    In May, county supervisors approved a possible guaranteed basic income program for former inmates. A group including San Jose’s Destination: Home and the Sí Se Puede Collective is also providing a guaranteed monthly income of $1,000 to 150 families for two years.

    Ellenberg said it will be important to look at the results of the pilot to inform how guaranteed income could be scaled up statewide.

    “It’s those evaluations that we will rely on to either tweak programs going forward to make changes as needed or as proof points to say this works, this is a strong and sustainable anti-poverty measure,” Ellenberg said.

    William Armaline, co-author of the pain index, San Jose State University sociology professor and founding director of the school’s Human Rights Institute, wants to make sure students receive the direct benefits instead of it going through a landlord or other entity.

    “You got to do something so people who are literally not surviving can survive,” Armaline told San José Spotlight.

    Contact Julia Forrest at [email protected] or follow @juliaforrest35 on Twitter.

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