This piece was written by communication intern Jacqueline Sevieux. Jacqueline Sevieux is a Communication major interested in Public and Motivational speaking. She will graduate from Bakersfield College and transfer to CSUB, where she will continue her education in Communications. She loves to express her creative side by writing, painting, and creating digital art.
It is estimated that 17% of community college students across college campuses in America are currently homeless or have experienced homelessness in 2019 (Spencer, 2020). With unstable housing and insecurity in life’s necessities, some students are carrying the weight of more than just a class load on their shoulders throughout their college years.
I have experienced chronic homelessness throughout my entire life and only recently have found housing stability and a sense of normalcy that is almost foreign to me. I am extremely grateful that I am now able to learn how to share my story to empower and educate those who are willing to listen.
I had the privilege of interviewing 3 students who have experienced homelessness while also attempting to juggle a college career.
*Names have been changed to protect their anonymity.
Q: What are some challenges that you experience as a Homeless/Housing Insecure Student at Bakersfield College?
Iris: Sometimes I feel like I can’t be open about what I have gone through because I worry that I am going to be judged negatively forever. So I lie about my access to certain things (internet, money to print, transportation) so I don’t get singled out.
Q: How would you describe the access to higher education for students who experience homelessness?
Iris: It was hard to be homeless and figure out where to leave my stuff while I was on campus. When I had a safe place to leave belongings, I tried hard to appear as someone who was appropriately housed. My self-esteem was low, and I wanted to look like everyone else in my classes who were put together.
Q: How did you utilize technology in courses?
Sasha: I went to the school library and the public library a lot. I also used my phone as much as I could. McDonald’s has free Wi-Fi, but during COVID I couldn’t go sit inside any more.
Q: How would you define your professors’ and fellow students’ responses to homelessness. Does it affect you at all?
Sasha: It doesn’t happen always, but sometimes people like to make jokes or offhanded comments. I don’t let it get to me because I have heard worse.
Q: Who or what helps you get through the tough days?
Anne: I stay in an apartment right now with other people my age who have experienced homelessness too and we talk all the time about what we want to do with our futures and how we want to be success stories. Thinking about those heart-to-heart conversations keeps me focused on school and everything that I want to accomplish.
Q: What could your institution be doing to better support students experiencing homelessness?
Anne: I think it would help a lot if the college could do a drive for homeless students once a semester. It would help show a lot of people that they have support even during the bad times. Traditional drive items like personal hygiene, snacks, condoms, etc.
Spencer, K. (2020, February 21). In College and Homeless. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/college-homeless-students.html