Soapbox: Homelessness amongst students

Emry Dinman

“Cities like Bellevue (i.e. elitist, aloof, arrogant, and snobby) and colleges like Bellevue College (i.e, ditto) DO NOT like to admit there are Homeless numbers, or others in poverty, in their midst,” said James, who once dealt with the daily tribulations of being a homeless student at BC before changing locations. “Far too often they either tamp down the numbers of Homeless/poverty in the area, or they simply resort to denial.  ‘Mum’ is definitely the word!”

People like James, many through no fault of their own, many with concurrent disabilities or social stigmas weighing them down, face homelessness. It is uncommon for a homeless person of any age to be able to put themselves through college, and for those who wish to, the barriers are enormous and plentiful.

“Do you have any idea where one would shower, eat, do laundry, take care of other hygiene needs, and etc.?” James asks of the soft suburban populace.

“What about the transportation to do all these things?  What about the dangers?  What would you do if the night before your mid-term you come ‘home’ to discover someone has raided your camp and stole all of your belongings…including your tent (oh, now it’s raining)?”

Homelessness of course comes in every shape and size. Several tent encampments are entrenched in wooded sub-lots within walking distance of Bellevue College, something that may come as a surprise to those who see nothing but their own shoelaces. Some stay in shelters, but the King County system has long been struggling with finding room for those who need it. Others sleep in their cars.

My own mother spent the better part of her late teen years roaming with a migratory tent city called Caravan, which was eventually ousted from the area surrounding Newport High School by Bellevue city officials.

To add, quite literally, insult to injury, the social clime rejects even those homeless with the wherewithal to go to college. All this, despite the fact that the homeless put more effort into the process of college. Doubt it? Imagine all those speeches, all those pop quizzes, all those evil or disinterested teachers laced with a background of rain seeping into your clothes during sleep, no graceful parent to help with transportation to school or buy you your first car.

Tie this in even further with the mental and physical distresses, which may have once been kept afloat by a ballooning economy, creating an even graver fall when the economy collapses. How many of our homeless are veterans who may be suffering from PTSD or severe depression? What of the homeless whose two-pronged support system is on one side people who can barely keep themselves afloat and on the other side a bureaucratic, unreliable government?

This conversation twists my gut, because Bellevue, mirroring Seattle with disappointing enthusiasm, has a culture that at one turn tries to ignore the homelessness problem, and at the other turn tries incredibly hard to squish them out of the area. No one is helped. Suburbanites just don’t have to look at homeless people.

Challenge your perspective. Challenge your privilege, as much of a buzz word as it has become.Who can blame a vet, struggling with debilitating mental diseases inflicted upon them in defense of a nation, from not being able to hold on to their bootstraps when the economy swings them around? Why blame my mother, running away from cultist parents at 14, for having dirt under her fingernails?

Instead we must do away with these petty asides, remember the importance behind platitudes such as “There but for the grace of god go I,” and be amazed at the resilience of any who, despite immense challenges, continue to move forward.