Tag Archives: homeless

Why There is Never Any “Other”

We are students of a university that, as the witty students in the “Sh*t USF Students Say” video have pointed out, favors a social justice perspective. It is hard to live in San Francisco and not be reminded that this city is home to thousands of homeless, mentally ill, and/or disabled peoples. Sometimes it is easy to forget when sitting on our mountain of expensive education that we share our home with these people. They are our neighbors.

I say this because I feel that, while many of us have the experiences of working in the community, we continue to separate ourselves both mentally and physically.

Every time I hear a student talk about going to the Tenderloin and how they “are very careful”, or how they walk fast, or how they “try to get through to them”, my fists clench a little bit.
Why do students feel that this is some kind of battle zone; that they must prepare themselves for entering a world unfamiliar?

I do not mean to sound ignorant or unaware of the problems in these areas of the city—I too have spent time volunteering in the Tenderloin, walking the so-called unsafe streets. I completely understand what problems these communities are facing, and I am not denying that they exist. But where they exist for the 60,000 residents of the Tenderloin, they exist for all of San Francisco. Their city street is our city street. If there are problems in these neighborhoods—crime, drug use, poverty, homelessness—then there are problems in our neighborhoods.

We must stop thinking of people living in desperate and dire situations as somehow being made up differently than ourselves. The unfortunate life circumstances that have put them in that position are things we may never know. What we do know is that they have no less interest, desire, need, or want for the joys that life brings. We need to inherently understand this if we wish to do any good.
I have been reading NPR’s This I Believe— a collection of dozens of people’s personal narratives ranging from the famous to the unknown—and struggled to think of what I would say if I were asked. Having to declare your own personal creed in a couple hundred words seems near impossible; I can hardly meet the word limit for this column!

Yet when I think about the marginalized in our community, and the outlook I feel many students have on them, my own understanding becomes clear. There is never any “other” in our world; everyone comes from the same mess of blood and cells of a beginning. It is easy to feel different or to be uncomfortable in a situation we do not know as our own. But what we must look beyond is the clearly visible, and search for the invisible: the compassion, the hope, the curiosity that is possible for each person.
Life may be different on the other side of the city, but it is only as different as we make it.

Student Embraces Homeless Population

Homeless people make most of us uncomfortable. Living in the city with the highest per capita homeless population in the country, we are bound to run into people living on the streets nearly every day we venture out of the USF bubble.  And yet, regardless of the frequency with which we encounter these people, we often avoid eye contact with them and simply pretend they do not exist.  Occasionally we might toss our change into an outstretched empty coffee cup and consider it an act of generosity, but often we assume that that homeless man will spend our money on drugs or alcohol and do not give him a second thought, let alone a second glance.  I have heard numerous times that we should not feel guilty about not giving change to begging street kids because they made the decision not to get a job; they chose this.  These are only a few ways we deal with our standard response of discomfort.

From my own observation and after spending quite a bit of time with the homeless youth down on Haight Street, I’ve found that people living on the streets can generally be separated into two camps: those who are on the streets because of situations beyond their control, such as desperate economic times or mental illness; and those who simply choose to live an alternate lifestyle to that of mainstream America.  Though the former is certainly an issue in San Francisco, I will focus on the latter.

I believe fear is a primary contributing element to our society’s indifference to homelessness, and it is completely normal as humans to fear what we do not understand.  There is a likely reason why someone would choose to live a life on the fringes of traditional society.  Domestic abuse and neglect are primary motives for someone to choose to trade in a warm and reasonably comfortable life for a tough, unpredictable one.  When life is filled with the pain of sleeping on icy cement, losing friends to drug overdoses, and constant uncertainty, the need for belonging and acceptance leads to the creation of self-declared families.

Connection is a basic human desire, and so homeless people often build their own families after being rejected from or choosing to remove themselves from those into which they were born.  The homeless as a collective are sometimes referred to as “The Family” by others living on the streets, a clear reflection of their sense of solidarity and protection.  We are accustomed to family referring to those to whom we are related by blood and stuck with for life, but in this unconventional lifestyle street youth create their own families, bound by fierce loyalty.  It is the kind of camaraderie found between people who have seen too much hard life together and who depend on each other for survival.

At the same time, there is a tragic irony present in this “new” society: although it is formed on the basis of rejecting society’s rules, this other society is full of rules of its own.  Rules like whom to talk to, how to speak, whom to spend time with, and which drug paraphernalia are acceptable in which parks.  Even the self-proclaimed anarchists display a subtle hierarchy within the ranks.  All this plays out on sidewalks and in city parks right under our noses, and yet we are often oblivious.

I have spent many an afternoon on the sidewalk with my street friends, and because of my bare feet and dreadlocked hair people regularly assume that I, too, spend my nights fighting the cold in Buena Vista Park. I have temporarily felt that overwhelming sense of invisibility when not a single passerby acknowledges me for hours on end, though I am mere inches from their Nike sneakers and fashionably slouchy boots.  So in the face of judgment and fear, let’s remember to spread a little compassion.  To a person struggling to make it to tomorrow as the last bit of hope dwindles, a greeting and a genuine smile can go a long way. Simply recognizing someone’s existence can restore their dignity.

How Awesome ResLife is.

I don’t like reslife. At all.

Simple as that. Their process to select roommates is not effective. They are not very responsible. And did not plan this years room selection well.

When I was filling out my profile for myusfrooms it was pointless. First of all because me and my friend already knew we wanted to be roommates for next year. And the actual profile we had to fill out was really pointless.

They match roommate compatibility mainly through music taste such as whether you dislike, like, don’t mind, like, country, rock, alternate, classic, rap, jazz music. Really, not all of us listen to music. What about koreanpop, japenese pop, mandarin pop or European music, how are you going to find reasonable roommates for them if music is such a big deal?

Second of all, profile names, why don’t we just use our real names? If we want to be their roommate and do end up rooming with them it would be nice to know their actual names… really. Simple things. I don’t think there are any privacy breaches, because I would much rather know their name or even just their first name rather than tofugirl, browneyegirl247. How usf allows you to select your roommate is simply through a screen name and a percentage of compatibility this profile you filled out of music preference and brief living preferences. How reliable is that? Not very reliable at all.

Secondly, they are not responsible. Why aren’t they responsible? Here’s why. My roommate from last semester wanted to take a year of absence and so I talked to my friend about it and we decided she should move in with me next semester meaning this semester. Although it was our fault to fill out paper work so late because we didn’t really plan for her to move in until really late. When she went to reslife to fill out paper work they told her I already had a roommate assigned. Yet they allowed her to continue to let her fill out paper work. And when I talked to my RA about the situation she told me I would probably get my friend as my roommate. But I did not get my friend as my roommate this semester! They said they never received her paper work. Which is a lie. They were just not organized enough to put her paper work somewhere they won’t lose. And because of their mistake we are the victims to their problems of messiness. That is not acceptable. We did not pay so much money for this school and so much money for housing for such poor service.

This year, by the second night of housing selection my friend who attempted to do housing is currently homeless for next year. She applied for erasmus which is a living and learning community who live in lone mountain, but right now lone mountain is full and when it was my turn to do housing, it was only the second day and all of Phelan, Lone Mountain and Pacific Wing were gone. For girls only. Boys had plenty of rooms available everywhere. What is wrong with reslife? They should really know their numbers and ratio of males and females so they will not have to face this current dilemma many female students are facing – which is homelessness.

So what solutions do I have to offer? First off the solution for the rooming with friend part. They should make their first step optional where we can have a direct request of a certain friend and just ask for their name and USF ID number. This will save us time from filling out this pointless profile and have us up on the market as possible roommates so these poor people stop requesting to be our roommates so that we can reject them. Which will lead them to be roommate less.

Second solution to the housing problem, there are co-ed floors on phelan, just make one of them all girls, and just do more planning and research about male female ratio for housing so they won’t make students homeless.

Really this is not rocket science.

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