Student leader says: “Not okay to throw people away”

Viana Maria Roland addresses San Jose’s Rise Up for Justice Rally on January 20, 2017.
PHOTO/NANCY TSOU

 

SAN JOSE, CA— I’m here today to shed light on student homelessness. This issue has become normalized in our society and has been pushed aside by many of our elected officials and policymakers. As a current student of De Anza College, who will be transferring into the UC system in the fall, I have struggled with homelessness throughout my college career.

Fortunately I had a car to sleep in whereas many are not so fortunate. I was unable to talk about this because I was ashamed. I was embarrassed that I was showering at school, and the only reason I tinted my windows was not to make my car look cool, but so I would be able to park in random wealthy neighborhoods in Cupertino to sleep at night and not have to worry about someone seeing me inside. I shouldn’t have had to carry around the weight of shame and embarrassment, just as many of the homeless do.

The victims are NOT to blame. California has the largest economy in the US, and sixth largest in the world. It also has the largest population of homeless students in the country and twice the rate of homeless students as the national average. A recent study, by California State University, shows that 1 in 10 students are homeless, and 1 in 5 lacks a consistent food source. That means a significant portion of our future leaders, doctors, scientists, social workers and others who will play a critical role in the our world are currently without adequate shelter. Seeking education is their best chance of escaping homelessness and poverty, but struggling to meet basic needs makes academic excellence an extremely difficult reality.

I am here today to call for resistance to the policies and actions that have left people sleeping on the streets, in the most powerful and one of the richest nations on earth. The election of Donald Trump has demonstrated that we cannot just stand by and wait for basic human rights such as housing, livable wages, healthcare, and affordable education to be given to us. Not only must we demand it, we must lead by example, because it is clear that our presidents, and many of our congress members and elected officials are unwilling to show us the way. We cannot stand by and expect a system to correct the issues that it intentionally created in the first place.

The resistance to a Trump presidency starts with doing our part to protect and shape the communities we wish to live in! We must demonstrate that we are not okay with throwing people away, whether they are homeless, or any other marginalized community. Homeless individuals will not come out of the shadows until they feel like humans again. Solutions begin when we look inside ourselves to find the empathy that our society has suppressed.

Be a part of the movement that is focused on SOLUTIONS to our homeless problem, not just temporary fixes. Attack the systemic socioeconomic and racial inequality that has allowed homelessness to flourish.

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