For many students attending Orange Coast College, cars parked in campus lots are just one of the many places to take a catnap between classes.
When not getting them from point A to point B, cars are increasingly doing double duty as a makeshift office, closet, and foot locker on wheels. For OCC students, they can be even more of lifeline, providing a needed safe space to rest during downtime.
In their private pods, students can catch up on homework and social media, decompress, or like Kaylee Bravo, a 19-year-old psychology major, just chill with friends.
“I do sometimes nap in my car, especially when I have a big gap between classes,” Bravo said.
She said she feels safe, for the most part, napping in the Adams Avenue Parking Lot on campus.
Chief of Campus Safety Jim Rudy acknowledges the appeal of sleeping in parked cars on campus. But Rudy urges students to be aware of their surroundings and before settling in, roll windows up just enough to allow a breeze to pass through, and be sure to remove valuables from plain sight.
Two recent attempted theft incidents from cars where students were sleeping involved crimes of opportunity with items visible and easily accessible from an open window, Rudy said.
Sometimes it’s out of necessity that students need a temporary place to crash.
With gas prices inching ever-higher toward $5 a gallon, according to Rudy, it may not be cost-effective to drive all the way home and back for a later class or to start a local work shift.
According to Allison Cuff, a CALWorks staff assistant serving students at the Pirates’ Cove food pantry and resources hub, many students’ mode of transportation is also their home.
“I know of at least five students who live in their cars,” Cuff said.
Other students frequently mention their intention to catch a quick nap in their cars before returning to the class, Cuff said.
While Coast Community College District policy maintains shower facilities for homeless student use in the Basil H. Peterson Gym, there is currently no provision for homeless students to sleep in their cars overnight on school property.
Pending legislation may change that, if a proposed Parking Lot Bill is passed by the California State Senate in 2021.
But according to Rudy, officials are concerned about being able to provide the necessary additional security and facilities to provide a safe overnight environment.
Beyond cars, there are several locations on campus where students can find a peaceful setting to nap. Rudy points to the many lawns and outdoor seating areas, the Student Union Complex and Starbucks that offer opportunities to chill.
According to dean of the Library John Taylor, the Library’s casual seating along the wide wall of windows facing the Orange Coast College Planetarium is a popular destination for relaxation.
Last year, after staff noticed many students using a second seat to put up their feet, the Friends of the OCC Library non-profit organization donated $10,000 to fund the purchase of proper footrests, Taylor said.
“If students have to nap, we won’t wake them,” Taylor said.
Further additions to the campus could be coming with OCC’s Vision 2030.
According to Taylor, those involved with planning Vision 2030 have acknowledged that long-term plans for the campus need to consider the inclusion of additional safe spaces for students to nap. The campus is currently in the building phase of Vision 2020.