Highlighting issues of local and global homelessness, senior Phillip Gibson brings the stories of street children to campus.
Senior USF international studies majors Phillip Gibson and Kate Armstrong organized a forum on homelessness last week, where panelists discussed its effects on street youths.
At the forum, titled “Stories of Street Children from around the Bay and Across the World,” panelists spoke on modern day homelessness and the manner in which societies perceive their indigent youth.
Attendees of the forum viewed USF student Moonui Choi’s short documentary “Homeless in Haight.” Choi’s film explores the world of street kids through the eyes of several local transients: Krust, Fox, Angel, and Pretzel.
Those interviewed shared a belief that stigmatization of the homeless often marginalizes them within society. Street kids struggle for basic recognition as human beings: “I’ll ask [pedestrians] what time it is time it is” said Fox, “and they’ll ignore me but they’ll talk to my cat.”
The panel also reviewed organizations that seek to aid street children. Assistant Manager of the Larkin Street Youth Center Antonio Zeledon spoke to the panel as a representative of local efforts to combat homelessness.
The Larkin Street Youth Center began as a private venture funded by local residents, church members, and business owners in 1984. Today, the center operates fifteen different sites offering housing, medical aid, and drug rehabilitation to homeless youth throughout San Francisco. Three out of four youths who complete their program programs exit street life, according to the site.
Denizens of Haight St. and Larkin Youth Center represent a small fraction of the homeless community in San Francisco, and the global community, as well.
Amuleni Rozmus, 11, grew up homeless in Uganda. He shared his experience with audience members at the event last Wednesday.
At age four, Amuleni’s father abandoned both him and his mother to start another family. Unable to be supported by his mother, he was forced to leave his home town of Karamoja and move to the popular tourist destination of Jinja, where he made a living begging tourists for donations.”
Though Amuleni was an adept survivor of street life the threat of Jinja Police, who sought to contain street children with imprisonment, was always present. Police efforts to contain street children in Jinja often ended with imprisonment. Amuleni escaped the threat of such a fate when he entered foster care at age five.
Within a year Amuleni met his future adoptive parents Steve and Kelley Rozmus. Today, he is a student and has lived happily with the Rozmus’ in San Bruno for over a year.
“He had a resilience to the street life… a lot of motivation and a lot of wit,” said Gibson, on how Amuleni was able to escape his circumstances. “He had the ability to take control of his own situation, even as a young kid.”
While street kids face a variety of challenges due to the unpredictable nature of life without a home, Gibson suggested the greatest obstacle they face is simple misunderstanding.
Perhaps the public attitude towards homeless persons is best stated by Krust, from Choi’s documentary. “We scare [the public] in a way,” said Krust. “They don’t know us. They think we’re dangerous; they think we’re dirty. They think, you know, we’re just… you know what? We are all of that, but that’s not all we are.”