SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) – Roberto Cedillo is one of the thousands of students getting ready to begin their final year at the University of California, Santa Cruz. However, while many of his classmates will be spending their evenings wondering what the answers to homework are, Cedillo will also be wondering where he will sleep at night and if he will be hungry tomorrow.

Cedillo has been studying engineering at UCSC since 2021, all while living in his car. He began attending classes in his car as schools, libraries and all facilities Cedillo frequents closed due to a global pandemic.

Cedillo is an electrical engineering student from Ventura, California who moved to Santa Cruz in 2021 to pursue a bachelor’s of science degree. He eats, sleeps and attends class in his Ford Expedition.

On Aug. 11, Cedilla returned from a trip back home to Ventura that he took without his car. When he returned from the trip, he and his friend went to pick up his vehicle, which had been parked on UCSC grounds. They found the parking space empty.

Cedillo spoke to campus law enforcement and filed a stolen vehicle report. He tells KRON4 this report later became the reason Santa Cruz police could not help him get his car back, telling him it took the case out of their jurisdiction. The “correct paperwork” was processed Monday, September 19. The SCPD officer handling the case is out on vacation at the time of this story’s publication and may continue the investigation upon his return, police told Cedillo.

Cedillo was able to locate his car at an impound lot and it was returned to him after he spoke to authorities. He had to pay a fine of $600 to get it back from the lot because the city did not register the vehicle as stolen. The fine was lowered from an original cost of $2,500.

Cedillo told KRON4 that he believed city police may have suspected he was lying about the theft to get out of a ticket. SCPD later sent him an apology.

Cedillo tells KRON4 that after getting his car back, it contained spilled chips, cans and bottles, and it had been spray-painted black. Food he had stored was eaten, his clothes and blankets were worn and used. 

Housing at UCSC ranges from $8,807.55 (without a meal plan) to $22,067.25 (including a meal plan), according to their website. UCSC has a parking lot available to students who live in residential campers or RVs for up to $6,976.98 a year, excluding summer, fall and winter academic breaks. 

In a statement from UCSC to KRON4, Assistant Vice Chancellor Scott Hernandez-Jason says, “no UCSC student should be without a place to live, and we encourage those who need help to reach out to Slug Support.” Hernandez says financial and housing support is accessible at the university, including rent and deposit assistance.

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Cedillo says he hopes sharing his story will raise awareness amongst fellow students experiencing homelessness. KRON4 reached out to the Santa Cruz Police Department and was told to expect a response Wednesday.