Living on the Streets

BONNIE SCHINDLER
El Vaquero Editor in Chief

She did not want to attract
attention. Driving slowly
down a secluded, quiet street
near the college, she parked her
car, looked around, adjusted her
seat back and fell asleep. It
would be a dreamless sleep, with
hunger in her belly and the fear
of getting caught crowding out a
good night’s rest. This is a
condition that the more fortunate
tend to ignore, but it is bigger
than we like to think.

According to the Shelter
Partnership Inc.’s Web site, a
recent survey found “as many as
84,000 people homeless each
night in Los Angeles County.”
Closer to home, the Glendale
Homeless Coalition estimates
that “on any given night, there
are 447 homeless persons in
Glendale.” A more recent study,
conducted in March of this year,
by the Institute for the Study of
Homelessness and Poverty,
stated there are 472 homeless
people in Glendale.

One such Glendale resident,
Adrienne Hall, slept in her car
for months before returning to
her family in Florida. When she
was growing up in Florida,
California was a dream for Hall;
as an adult, it became a
nightmare.

Since 2002, Hall had lived
with a family in Glendale who
had charged her cheap rent. Hall,
now 34, took on jobs here and
there but wanted to pursue a
career in photography. She had
been a part-time student at
Glendale Community College
since 1993, but finally made the
move to full-time in the fall of
2003. She was so secure with her
decision of going full-time with
school that it was shattering
when her whole world fell apart.
The family that she was
staying with had decided that
their home was too small to
board her anymore. That was
Thanksgiving night; by the next
week she stood in line at the
county welfare office in
Glendale.

“[They told me that] because I
was a full-time student, I would
not qualify for food stamps and
that they did not know if there
was any room for me at a
shelter,” Hall said. She lived off
cold canned food and donations
from friends. Not knowing
where to go, she began to show
signs of despair during her class
sessions at GCC. In class, Hall
said her peers would ask her why
she seemed so tired, and
confused. After telling a few
teachers about her situation, she
was directed to Jeanette
Stirdivant, counselor of Disabled
Students and Services.
Stirdivant, who has helped
numerous students in the past,
took Hall by the hand and
directed her toward help.
Although Stirdivant aids many
students, an estimate of how
many homeless students attend
the college is not available from
either Dean of Admissions and
Records Sharon Combs, or the
Dean of Student Activities Paul
Schlossman.

The first thing that Stirdivant
did for Hall was give her an
application for the Food for
Thought Program on campus.
The program, which was started
because Stirdivant “found so
many students [on campus] that
were hungry,” awards stipends
averaging $100 for groceries.
The application process is
very competitive, according to
Stirdivant. About 100 students
apply and only 25 are accepted.
In the future, she hopes that more
students will be allotted the
stipends. For now, both students
and faculty members on campus
give money towards the cause.
Some faculty donate a small
percentage of their paychecks
toward the Food for Thought
Program; other staff members
and students donate during fund
drives.

Stirdivant also pointed Hall in
the direction of both Jim
Sartoris, division chair of health
and physical education, and the
One Step Center in Glendale.
Across the campus from
Stirdivant, Sartoris heads the
Physical Education Department
and helps students who she
sends to him. “If they have a
situation where a student needs
help, we have agreed to provide
them with showers.” While the
budget cuts have prohibited the
department to supply towels to
the students, Sartoris said that
both lockers and warm showers
are available to those in need
from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“During the week, Monday
through Saturday, I could
shower [in the ladies locker
room in the Sierra Nevada
Building on campus]; on
Sundays, I would sneak into the
Glendale Adventist Hospital and
use their employee showers,”
Hall said. But she still needed a
place to lay her head.
“The counselor [Stirdivant]
sent me to The One Stop. The
One Stop wanted to send me to
the Glendale Armory, which is
basically army barracks,” Hall
said. At the armory, strict hours
make it hard for someone
working or in school to get a
bed. “I had school at 3 p.m. and
that is when they [homeless
people] had to line up,” Hall
said.

Most students would have
given up on their college goals,
but not Hall.

“I had a desire to finish
school,” Hall said. “I wanted to
succeed, I wanted to take
pictures.”

So, the saga continued. With a
mere $400 that she receieved
from her low-income family in
Florida, Hall bought a car and
vowed to continue her
schooling. The car quickly
became her home and every
night she would park it about a
mile from the college and sleep.
In addition, having a car helped
her to get a job delivering
newspapers in Glendale from 3
to 5 in the morning. The money
her family contributed to her
could have been found at a much
closer location: at the Financial
Aid Center on campus.


Many may wonder how a
prosperous city, such as
Glendale, could ever allow
homelessness to happen; (title)
Patricia Hurley wonders that
herself. “Homeless students
often do not know about
financial aid or are embarrassed
to fill out forms that will identify
them as homeless; for those
students who do apply, financial
aid can help to cover expenses,”
Hurley said. The application
process helps the Financial Aid
Center to better understand the
financial situation of the student,
based on many factors including
age and dependency.

“Financial aid is based on a
family’s ability to contribute to
the cost of education, not the
family’s willingness to do so,”
Hurley said. “There are very
specific laws that define when a
student is no longer required to
provide financial information
from parents when applying for
federal or state financial aid
programs.” Although rare she
said, “In some serious family
situations, that may be
threatening to the student, the
Financial Aid Office can waive
these criterias. The student must
provide documentation of the
circumstances and an
explanation.”

The documentation, criteria
and deadlines of applications can
make it difficult for students who
did not become homeless during
the application processing time.
In addition, the cost of living in
Glendale is what another former
homeless student, Mila Paredes
Reid, called, “outrageously
skyrocketing, scary.”

The Union Rescue Mission’s
Web site states, “A person
earning minimum wage ($6.75
per hour), must work 126 hours
per week to afford a two bedroom
apartment. Therefore,
to afford a two-bedroom
apartment in California, a person
working 40 hours per week must
make $21.18 per hour.” Because
of these contrasting figures, it
seems that most students would
need some sort of aid other than
their jobs.

Hurley said, “A student
enrolled full-time in a degree,
transfer or certificate program,
who qualifies for the maximum
amount of financial aid, may
receive a Pell Grant of $1,969
per semester, a Board of
Governor’s (BOG) fee waiver to
cover the enrollment fees, a
supplement grant of $200 per
semester, a federal work-study
job on campus and could apply for a student loan. If the student
qualified for a Cal Grant, he or
she would receive an additional
$775 per semester.”

Mila Reid, 63, who is a current
GCC student and was, at 53, a
homeless student at both UC San
Diego and Miramar Community
College, said “I did not use
financial aid because I thought it
only applied to young
people…had I known, I could
have applied for it.” Instead, she
slept in her 13-year-old Toyota
Supra and on the streets; she
never slept in a shelter.
Reid’s story begins with an
abusive husband, who had been
jailed repeatedly for domestic
violence. Her husband “who
happened to be a former
temporary judge of the San
Diego Superior Court, and a
friend of the two other judges”
who alternately heard her
divorce case, was granted all
community property following a
contentious divorce, Reid said.
When she left the courtroom,
all she had was the clothes on her
back and the keys to her truck.

Despite the utter shame of living
on the streets and out of storage
centers that many may go
through, Reid remained uplifted
and quite busy.

“Homelessness did not deter
me from connecting with people
and continue functioning conscientiously,”
Reid said. “After I
had my shower at the Y (MCA),
I spent my time mostly at the law
library, and on Sundays when the
library was closed, I attended a
writers group to improve my
writing.” She also volunteered
her time as an ESL teacher at the
YMCA, which eventually led to
the YMCA sending her to school
to get a certificate to teach ESL.
Reid also learned a lot about
humanity from being homeless.

“I learned that when I
respected other people, they
respected me too; when I smiled
at people, young and old, they
smiled back,” Reid said. In fact,
she now believes that
“homelessness must not
consume us (us meaning those
who are homeless), or break us
down. Meaning, we must
maintain our dignity, integrity,
commitment and optimism even
under such a very difficult
situation. In addition, one must
always keep their spirits bright,
keep smiling, stay friendly,
connect with the right group of
people and never ever blame
anybody including yourself.”
Hall agreed.

“Regardless of what
happened, I would not let myself
be bitter or have a negative
outlook,” Hall said. Although
positive in her attitude, one
month after she bought her car, it
died.

With the car not working, she
was no longer able to park on the
streets because in order to park
and sleep, she had to
continuously move the car to
different areas of the city. So,
she asked her family to fly her
home to Florida.

Now back on their feet, both
Hall and Reid see society as a
different place. They understand the poverty of this country, at
least on some level. “Our society
has become so calloused about
people in need; we have become
very wasteful,” Hall said.