Airbnb, San Jose team up to help house homeless college students

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Homelessness and housing insecurity can be huge barriers to higher education, but a new partnership involving Airbnb will help house homeless college students in the Bay Area's largest city.

"We know we've got hundreds of homeless students who should be thinking about their exams, and their classes, rather than where they're going to sleep each night," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

RELATED: Santa Clara County leaders aim to house 100 homeless youth in 100 days
That's why the San Jose mayor's office is teaming up with San Francisco-based Airbnb to launch a first-of-its-kind pilot program that will offer temporary short-term housing to homeless students who attend San Jose State University or a local community college.

"These students are talented, they're bright, they're energetic. We want them to say 'hey, I need some help' (and) we want to get them some help," said Patrick Day, SJSU Vice President of Student Affairs.

The Bill Wilson Center, a nonprofit that works directly with homeless youth and young people across the region, will have access to the "Airbnb for Work" booking platform, which is typically used by businesses to reserve rooms for employees. The rooms will be covered using a $250,000 state grant that was previously awarded to the center.

"If you're already struggling with your cost of how you afford housing, how do you do that during the period when college dorms are closed? So, this really solves the problem and a very specific issue," said Ron Ricci, president of the center's board of directors.

Airbnb will waive host and guest booking fees, as the Bill Wilson Center works with students to help them secure long-term housing.
"We have hosts who are incredibly interested in playing this role, in opening up their homes, and engaging with students who may need housing," said Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global policy and communications.

RELATED: Santa Clara County tackles regional housing crisis with more affordable housing projects

A recent California State University system study found more than 4,000 SJSU students have experienced some form of homelessness during their college career.

"It's such a complex problem, we definitely need to start somewhere, and temporary emergency housing is a good place for that," said Diana Rendler, a member of the SJSU Student Homeless Alliance.

Liccardo says the pilot program has the potential to expand beyond San Jose.

"We're going to continue to build these kinds of partnerships, and see how we can leverage everyone's resources, and good thinking, to tackle homelessness," said Liccardo.

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