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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Homeless Seek Higher Education

Homelessness has been one of the most debated and difficult issues in America ever since Lyndon B. Johnson famously declared a “War on Poverty” in the 1960s. UMass Boston has done its part to fight this problem through organizations such as Veterans Upward Bound and Advocacy Resource for Modern Survival (ARMS), so access to education for this struggling population of citizens has come much closer to being within reach.

For most college students, homelessness has never been an issue that they felt has affected them or anyone that they know. But the reality is that more students face this difficult obstacle in life than many people are aware of. For most, homelessness does not necessarily mean sleeping under a bridge or in the makeshift mobile home of the backseat of their car, but there are many who deal with the uncomfortable worry of where they will end up sleeping each night.

Everyone knows the homeless man on the corner who begs for change or a cigarette each morning, but many are unaware that fellow students are suffering the very same hardships. Though it may not occur to most of us, some students do experience homelessness at one time or another. Some attribute it to gaps in living accommodation when moving, claiming that it will only last a matter of days. Others, however simply do not have a place to call home at all.

But this should not be a deterrent for those who wish to rise above their current situation and seek betterment through higher education. Veterans Upward Bound is one such program that specializes in helping veterans in finding the finances needed to achieve that goal.

One of the group’s protégés, Michael Murray, attended UMass Boston for 10 years while switching between shelters and the streets of Boston. When staying at the Long Island Shelter in Boston, Murray was lucky enough to spot a flyer for Veterans Upward Bound. The association helped him begin his college experience.

Murray thrived during his time at UMass Boston, despite the added difficulties. He was held in high regard by many faculty and staff, and even managed to become a member of the student Board of Trustees. Though he never finished his degree – “life got in the way,” he recalled – he insists it was one of the best experiences in his life. “UMass bypasses them all,” Murray said.

UMass Boston has several ways of helping those in need. The school is very involved in furthering education of the urban youth and there are also a number of ways students can get involved in helping out the local community. There is a course offered in CPCS educating students on homelessness from a historical perspective.

Of the nine centers for students located on the Campus Center’s third floor, the ARMS Center is one that can help students with concerns such as homelessness.

Many UMass Boston staff and faculty also take part in aiding the less fortunate. The Center for Social Policy (CSP) is an organization conducting projects for those in need. The Homelessness Prevention Initiative is one such in project working with five other foundations around Boston, including the Tufts Health Plan/Mass Medical Society and the Alliance Charitable Foundation.

The CSP also has the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a data-tracking system which keeps info and statistics on “men, women and children experiencing homelessness” according to the university website.

With the institution of these organizations plus many more, opportunities for those in less than perfect financial situations will continue to grow. Many have already had the opportunity and benefited from it greatly. Now living on his own in Florida, Murray’s rewarding experience will have the added bonus of giving hope to countless other homeless who never thought further education was a possibility.