By Nicholas James
The hardest part of telling those I was homeless is trying to form the rest of the story.
I don’t try to bury those memories often; I have to restrain myself from actually talking about some of the darkest things I saw. It’s a rather unusual feeling. I want to talk about it, but sometimes I have no reason to. Everything else in life I can talk about: my ex-girlfriends, my many jobs over the years, all my wacky adventures in the past. But I can’t talk about my time being homeless.
People who have gone through the ringer like I have don’t have an outreach where we can talk to another person who actually has been homeless. We have spaces for different ethinic groups, the LGBTQ+ community and others that have someone to talk to about their issues and have more resources to accommodate those needs.
But for homeless people? The university doesn’t provide a program that involves students being able to reach out. LBSU has a nice little website that has some resources, but there’s nowhere that we can schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist and sit in a lounge chair to talk about the horrors we have seen.
Many of these programs that are supposed to help the homeless are creating justification for living in a tent underneath an overpass or a highway. The reality of it is this: we live in a harsh world, and the homeless are unfortunately the group exiled by the lack of compassion. We’re often used for the photo ops with the city council and maybe once in a while, we get a feature on some news channel about how the city is doing something for us.
When I lived in San Diego and started to dig into the city records, I found it astonishing how many failed buildings there were in the last 50 years: 26. Some of these buildings were still in okay conditions, easily feasible for usage as a homeless shelter. I'm still fairly new to the Long Beach, but I am pretty sure that there are more than 26 failed projects on file.
Maybe someday, the city can wake up and realize how much they’re hurting the homeless community by continuously putting us through trial and error rather than finding something concrete. LBCC recently announced it would open up 15 parking spots for students to spend their nights in their cars, but that’s before it was said that there were nearly 70 or more students living in such conditions. That’s still a growing problem that we seem to lack accommodations for as we open up the doors for resolutions little by little.
At the end of the day, you can argue that the city and the university are trying their best to find applicable solutions, but I see it as part of the city’s push to move the homeless out of the city and further south. What the city needs to start pushing for is the usage of older, abandoned buildings as a shelter in order to utilize the space for children and young adults since they’re more likely to be at-risk for homelessness. LBSU could look for the same option: we have money to expand on livable dorms with state-of-the-art features, why not consider creating one for homeless students? Offer students the same resources, especially if the university is attempting to push itself towards being a “social mobility university."
But we’ll never know.