THE SANTA CLARA
January 14th, 2016
We order our food with the touch of a button. We complain about how tiny our dorm rooms are and act that we lose sleep because our beds are only Twin XLs. We have the option of getting our clothes laundered for us and delivered to our dorms. Living a beyond comfortable lifestyle is standard at Santa Clara.
For many, it’s easy to forget that there is starvation, violence and homelessness in the world. It is even more unfathomable that these very issues are present just down the block from our own university.
While most of us are well aware that homelessness plagues the United States, we must actually acknowledge this issue in Santa Clara, San Jose and other neighboring cities.
My main concern lies not in the epidemic of homelessness itself, but in many people’s inability to see the homeless with the same worth as other humans in society.
Bus route 22 runs between San Jose and Palo Alto. As the only bus that runs 24 hours a day, it is a place for the homeless to get some much needed shelter during the night.
As the homeless quietly file on the bus, mutual respect and comfort sets in—a simple joy and thankfulness that they have a safe place to spend the night.
Even though they rest peacefully at night, when the sun begins to rise and others who ride the bus for transportation arrive, their quiet space is quickly disrupted.
The bus driver and the nightly passengers hold a certain unspoken agreement.
They are welcome to sleep on the bus through the night, but the moment commuters come aboard, they are expected to leave. If they do not leave, those who are trying to get to work become uncomfortable and bothered by their presence, and they spew nasty comments their way.
There is something about my lack of personal connection with this issue that makes me want to continue to push it away. I have never ridden this bus, and probably never will.
Out of sight, out of mind.
But when other human beings are being mistreated, it is hard not to inquire more about an issue.
As easy as it would be to ignore a situation that does not directly affect my daily activities, there is something telling me to care about others outside my own bubble. After initially hearing about Hotel 22, I wanted to learn more.
But, if it were not for a conversation I had with a friend while finishing up a meal, I wouldn’t even know Hotel 22 exists.
When she first mentioned she was learning about it in class, I immediately imagined it as a fictional book in which these characters only come out when the sun sets and the world is still, to wreak some havoc and disturb a natural peace.
That’s the root of the problem, the ignorant assumptions I made because I knew little to nothing about the homeless in Santa Clara’s backyard.
Taken aback at my elaborate, wildly inappropriate assumption, my friend, semi-disgusted, shook her head and told me that Hotel 22 was real.
Yet before her professor showed a video in class, she didn’t know about this nightly phenomena either. No one else in her class did, yet similar issues exist everywhere.
Of course, allowing people to use a bus for shelter is not the answer to ending homelessness. But we will never come up with the real answer if no one is even talking about it.
We must have more conversations about pressing social issues beyond the confined walls of our classrooms so we can work towards becoming a more of an understanding and accepting community.
This may sound too idealistic, I know, but there is no reason to avoid facilitating conversation about important issues.
Even if one more person learns about something like Hotel 22, then that is one more open potential agent of change.
The hope we see in the very fact that an unsung hero—an everyday bus driver—provides refuge for a group of homeless people is inspiring. Yet, we see the darkness in humanity when those with money are vicious towards those with nothing.
We must look deeper into what is happening in our world and learn about our surroundings.
If we do some reflecting and realize that 30 people feel lucky to sleep on a bus virtually the same size of our dorm rooms, maybe we will be less quick to complain and more likely to empathize.
Your living situation won’t seem like so much of an inconvinience once you realize waking up to the sound of your alarm is far more peaceful than the screams of unfriendly commuters.
Lindsey Mandell is a sophomore English and psychology major and is editor of the Opinion Section.