The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Homeless

Various definitions of homelessness are used in different contexts. Generally, homelessness is defined as a lack of a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.
According to estimates by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the number of “homeless” people in the United States at any one time could be between 700,000 and three million.
California State University, Stanislaus student Sunny Panh experienced homelessness first hand in the city of Turlock.
Panh, a junior Biology major at CSU Stanislaus, is a Khmer American from Stockton, California. While living in Stockton, he witnessed first hand families struggling to get the necessities to live healthy and productive lives. The quality of life in certain parts of Stockton is nearly unbearable.
Motivated to change the status quo, Panh joined Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and created Warriors Giving Back in 2012. This led to $2,300 of raised funds for homeless shelters and clinics in Stockton, Turlock and Modesto.
While also being the Director of Natural Sciences, Panh has been able to raise a total of over $5,000, which has benefited multiple local organizations that cater to the needs of the homeless.
Panh knew his funding would help the homeless, but it wasn’t enough to cure his itch. He wanted to experience homelessness first hand and did so for 48 hours.
On April 1, Panh woke to the damp and cold beginning of a new experience that would change his perception forever.
“I wanted to experience homelessness first hand,” Panh said. “I knew it would be an experience I’d never forget.”
Panh decided to walk to Donnelly Park from where he parked his car near CSU Stanislaus. The cold air was chilling and made him appreciate, like never before, the warm clothes he had. When reaching the park, Panh had an enjoyable experience of watching the wind blow the leaves across the grass and hear the birds chirp in the brisk morning air. The chilling cold interrupted his moment of tranquility and forced him to continue walking in order to stay warm.
Knowing he wanted to maintain hygiene throughout this experience, he decided to walk to Walmart to collect money and hopefully gather enough funds to brush his teeth and wash his hair. Quickly, he was blessed with the funds needed for this.
Panh decided to go to the restroom in Walmart to freshen up knowing the outside cold would be too unbearable for wet hair. As he began to sud his hair he noticed the unsettling looks of disgrace from other customers walking in and out of the restroom.
After gathering his things, Panh decided to leave his pride at the door and continue on. Making his way to McDonald’s he decided to ask others for the location of the nearest homeless shelter.
Panh’s question was unanswered until he sat down to eat his well-appreciated, cheap meal. He was surprised to see a McDonald’s employee willing to research the nearest homeless shelter on her phone.
Seeing that no homeless shelters were open, the McDonalds employee assisted Panh in driving him to Safeway, which has 24-hour sitting areas. Seeing the kind-heartedness of the local samaritan sat well with Panh, knowing there are individuals in the local community who share the same concern for the homeless as him.
“I was surprised to see how much she was willing to help,” Panh said. “I was also relieved.”
While sitting and trying to enjoy the moment of peace at Safeway, Panh was once again reminded of Mother Nature and it’s chilling winds and decided to walk to stay warm.
Not sure what to expect next, Panh decided to walk towards Costco. Exhausted from the day, Panh took a nap on a Costco bench. The chilling winds and overcrowded freeway disturbed Panh’s slumber.
While freezing cold, unable to rest and unsure of what was next, Panh was beginning to experience the stresses of homelessness.
Frozen and exhausted, Panh once again walked to stay warm. He made his way to the Homeless Assistance Ministry (HAM) in Turlock in hopes of talking with other homeless people to gather insight. During his interviews, Panh was able to see a part of homelessness a 48-hour experience could never reveal.
“So many people…so much discomfort,” Panh said. “I could see the pain in their eyes.”
Panh then went to his car to sleep for the night. As he laid in his car with no iPhone or iPad for entertainment, he struggled to rest.
“I had a restless mind,” Panh said. “But my body was completely exhausted.”
After sleeping for a few hours, Panh was once again met by his immortal enemy, the bitter cold. With no blanket, Panh only had his sweater, jeans and beanie to keep warm. Panh looked up at his car thermometer to see it was 36 degrees inside of his car. Panh described that night as “one of the most difficult nights.” It was then that his perception was forever changed.
The next 24 hours were somewhat similar to the previous day. The battles of homeless aren’t about keeping up with the Joneses, or trying to see what Lady Gaga is wearing at the Grammys, but simply trying to fight hunger and the weather.
Panh takes from this experience that nothing should be taken for granted. Everything should be appreciated. Homelessness in America needs a stronger support system.

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