Dark Side of Paradise: The Homeless College Students of California

The Golden State of America boasts one of the most incredible and iconic landscapes in the world. Its rolling hills, white Spanish Mission-style houses, and endless sunshine make California one of the most desirable places on the planet. Not to mention its ties to the entertainment industry and the plethora of famous residents who live on its doorstep. To anyone, California is a dream destination – a golden ticket to a life of endless prosperity and a relaxed, easy-going, endless vacation.

Behind its impressive and charming facade, however, is the very real and extremely worrying trend of its increasing homeless population. It is perhaps easy to romanticize them as being failed actors on Sunset Boulevard or struggling musicians sleeping on the street outside the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, or perhaps condemn them for being drug addicts, alcoholics or simply annoying transients looking to take advantage of naive tourists. However, homelessness in California does not discriminate – and studies are showing that the most disturbing victims to the grim-reaper of vagrancy are the exact people who are the state’s future.

A worrying one in five of California’s community college graduates are or have been homeless (a study shows). As tuition fees increase, California’s already highly expensive cost of living creates an environment that is extremely difficult for its students to navigate through. Grades start to crumble – and mental health in students is at a greater risk of suffering, and when students’ grade point averages decline, graduating with a top mark becomes harder and harder – which only limits their job searches even more.

It is this negative cycle that is so hard to escape from. Despite the efforts of the state government to help tackle the issue, Californian life is still taking a toll on its students, and when one faces these barriers at such a pivotal time in their lives, the Golden State seems to be stunting the growth of many of its young residents. One student found herself homeless at 18, sleeping in her car, whilst somehow finding the determination to study and work full-time. In an amazing story of David and Goliath, her dreams will not be extinguished by the rigid system she fights against daily.

The state of California is an enigmatic behemoth. Behind all the glitz and glamour of its landmarks, in the backyard of the Spanish Mission houses lie a generation at risk, walking its streets with a proverbial weight around their ankles – perhaps instead of sweeping the issue under the rug whilst the divide between rich and poor grows larger and larger each year, the state government needs to take action. The future of the state is theirs to lose.





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