Close your eyes and imagine yourself on the street, cold and hungry. Imagine how you would feel, alone with a bed of concrete. You, in this imaginary world, are “invisible” to people, and no matter how hard you try, no one is reaching out to help you. In fact, people want you to go away, because you are seen as a blight on society.
Now, open your eyes and realize that this is going on every day in the United States. This is called being homeless, and it is a social injustice.
On Nov. 17, CSUN students are banding together against this injustice and making a difference by walking at HomeWalk 2012 at Exposition Park. HomeWalk is an annual, one-day walking marathon put on by United Way to raise money for affordable housing for the homeless, and this year Kobe Bryant will be the honorary chair. The goal is to end the homeless crisis by 2016. The main philosophy behind the event is that affordable housing for everyone should be a right, not a privilege. As students, and as human beings, we should all be fighting for this, and that is why I feel it is important for you to join the CSUN HomeWalk team.
Statistics from United Way state that on any given night in Los Angeles, about 51,000 people are sleeping on the streets. These are men, women, children, veterans and others just like you or me. In fact, statistics from the United Way state that 32 percent of the homeless population have received bachelor’s degrees, and the main cause of homelessness is job loss. Advocating for the homeless, in a way, is a lot like advocating for our own rights as human beings.
What most people don’t talk about is that anyone, at any time, could become homeless. When I was an intern at a nonprofit on Skid Row during 2010, homelessness became much more than a social problem to me. The day that really woke me up to the harsh reality of this issue was when I was manning a booth at a nonprofit street fair on San Julian Avenue in the heart of Skid Row. Each person who came to my booth had a story, had questions and had interesting and sometimes heartbreaking histories.
One person in particular I met while working with a non-profit on Skid Row, made homelessness hit home for me. She had tatters in her dirty, gray men’s slacks. Bags of candy hung from her beaten up backpack, and her hair was short and in an array of dark brown tangles. Her eyes seemed to droop, but with each, fleeting clear stare it was easy to tell she had no hope left. Each booth she came to sent her away for being either too “healthy” for supportive housing, or too old for the transitional homes for aging foster children. There really was no place for her to live but the streets. She was only 23 – my age.
We, as college students, have the responsibility of affecting change for the future. Joining the CSUN HomeWalk team is a small step, but this can lead to a larger impact. Over the past five years, this HomeWalk event alone has helped raise funds for 12,000 new permanent and supportive housing facilities. According to the United Way, this permanent housing has kept people off the streets at an 85 percent success rate. This has saved taxpayers money, as well.
There are many ways a student can join our HomeWalk team. To become a walker costs $25 and people under the age of 18 walk for free. If money is an issue, there are also ways to volunteer at the event, but every person makes a difference. If you would like more information about joining our growing team of CSUN students who will participate in HomeWalk this year, visit our Facebook page.
Graduate student of social work