Ground Zero: part 1
This is how it begins…
You’re a low income student living off of loans and a minimum wage job. You come from an overpopulated urban city and you are literally struggling to get by. You realize you can’t afford to live off campus so you move all your belongings to your best friend’s garage. One month you’re trying to commute to work with no money and little resources and after working 8-10 hour days you return to crash in your friends’ bed. The next month, after spending a slow day at work writing poetry all day you end up in the mall parking lot practically begging your boss for your job back after he claims you’ve broken “company policy;” because without that 8 hours a day, you have nothing. And that’s what I had when I went back to my best friends’ home; packed a bag, left a note and started running.
And slowly at first, but full speed once I found my pace, I kept running. And I continued to run from place to place searching for something both within myself and outside as well in the midst of my nothingness. Tired and ready to give up living at all; I ran up until I found that there was nowhere else to run to. I remember the first time I asked myself where exactly I was going to sleep for the night. Searching for security and comfort in a town I felt the most myself in, I hiked in the pitch black through the world's largest remaining old growth coastal redwood forest that wet spring of 2014; my dog and my pack attached to me, I realized what I considered the end what some call ground zero… What society calls homelessness.
There has been a definite increase in the number of homeless students across the country. Michelle Asha-Cooper, of the Institute for higher education policy in Washington D.C. states; “What we're hearing from the college presidents and leadership [is] that more and more students are struggling," she continues, “Some are taking out pretty large amounts of student loans to finance their education as well as their living costs. Some are enrolling part-time, some are even dropping out."
This Spring in Sacramento, CA assembly member Gibson and assembly member Bloom have authored two bills that could change the pace of homeless youth attending higher education. AB 1228 (Gibson) “would give first priority housing for homeless students on college campuses, and would require colleges to develop a plan to ensure that current and former foster and homeless youth can access housing resources as needed during and between academic terms and campus breaks.” AB 801 would give homeless youth and foster youth priority in choosing their classes. When asked, what are the steps necessary to end youth homelessness, Director Shahera Hyatt; of the California homeless youth project states; “ I think that in order to curb youth homelessness, we need a concerted effort at multiple levels: we need community members to have compassion for our homeless neighbors, we need service providers to give the best of care to people who are experiencing homelessness, we need policymakers to take responsibility and fund programs that serve this community, and remove barriers to housing, education, and employment for people who don't have a safe, stable place to stay.”
What we need to realize through this time of high unemployment rates and tuition increases throughout both the state and country is that people trying to further their education are practically gambling with their chance to keep shelter or not. At the cost of going to school, getting an education and trying to better your chances at attaining a career in this society I ask; what is worth our time? What is worth our time when every day you have another college student entering ground zero?
© 2017 Christa Canady