SCC student hungry for more than good grades

Joe’s story led him from the wilderness of South Dakota to SCC, where he is trying to pick up the pieces

Francisco Dominguez, Reporter

“When I got here, I didn’t know where I was, so I remember the first night,” Joe said. “I was laying down and a friend called me to ask me what I was doing. I wasn’t going to lie to anybody, but at the same time, I didn’t want to tell everybody. I remember he (friend) bought me a hotel room that night.”

Joe (not his real name) is a current SCC student. He is currently taking 14 credit hours, but Joe is not the typical student. Joe was homeless for most of the semester.

Joe came to Arizona on October 2014 from South Dakota. He was fleeing the reckless lifestyle he was living and seeking spiritual guidance.

“For me it was a spiritual motivator behind leaving. It was more of a choice to leave the lifestyle I was living,” Joe said.

While Joe was living in South Dakota, he and his friends were involved with drugs and other careless behaviors. Although Joe was engaging in these sorts of behaviors, deep down he knew where that would lead him and it was that fear that made him open his eyes.

“The friends I was around were steadily getting worse and worse… they were starting to do crack and I had tried it I think twice,” Joe said. “That had scared me – because I liked it.”

It was at this moment that Joe decided to leave South Dakota and come to Arizona. Arizona was his second chance; it was hope.

When Joe got to Arizona, hope turned into hell. Joe fled trouble only to find himself being homeless.

Joe was part of the 29,170 adults and children who experience homelessness in the year 2014, according to the 2014 Homelessness in Arizona Annual Report. According to this same report, one out of 225 Arizona residents experienced homeless in 2014.

Being homeless is a hard of enough task, but being homeless in an unfamiliar place is even harder and that was Joe’s situation.

Joe was able to find refuge in the Central Arizona Shelter Service. He called that home for about five months of his life. That is where he ate and showered, but more important he got back on his feet again.

So, how does a homeless person pay for college? For Joe, it was a Pell Grant.

More than paying for his school, the Pell Grant restored the hope that Joe had lost.

“The Pell Grant money was really the biggest help it got me into a place,” Joe said. “I know a lot of students look at their Pell Grant money and pay for school and then go blow the rest. For me, I had to make the concise decision to use it to get into a place.”

Joe likes school and even though he sometimes even struggled to study because of his homeless situation he still fought on.

“One thing that was hard for me in the first half of the semester was trying to find a quiet place where I can sit down and do my homework,” Joe said.

Here is Joe, who – instead of worrying whether he was going to have something to eat for dinner – tried to find a place to study. More than hungry for food, Joe was hungry for success.

As stated earlier, Joe is one of thousands of homeless, and although his story maybe unique, the reason for why he ended up homeless is the same as the others.

Lindsey Roberts is the communications manager of Central Arizona Shelter Services. To her, the homeless share a common denominator.

“There is a variety of different reasons why people become homeless. The common denominator with all of our clients is that they lack the family support system,” Roberts said.

It is important to understand that a homeless person is not the stereo typical man or women on the corner that is drunk and holding a sign. That absolutely exists, but most homeless people are simply people who are going through tough times.  A homeless person could be a co-worker, a classmate, or even a friend.