Keep Our Campus Free of the Homeless

Recently I’ve noticed a strange rise in the number of homeless people plaguing our campus.  During my first year here at UC Irvine, I never noticed anything out of the ordinary as far as the presence of the homeless is concerned.  Sure, there would be the occasional weird-looking guy at the bus stop, but that is to be expected.  In the past month of class, however, I’ve witnessed at least two homeless people on campus.

My first homeless person sighting occurred two weeks ago at the local Zot-n-Go. It was my long day of class, and I stopped in to get a quick bite to eat between classes.  I met a friend at the tables outside and talked to him briefly before entering. Once I was inside, I noticed an elderly gentleman talking loudly with the cashier.  He was dressed in shabby, faded clothing, his face was unshaven, and as I walked past him, I noticed he didn’t smell very good, to put it nicely. I don’t remember exactly what he was saying to the cashier, but I do remember thinking to myself, “Okay, that guy definitely doesn’t have all the lights on upstairs.” He paid for his coffee and walked outside ahead of me.  I paid for my snack and walked outside, imagining the look on my friend’s face when I told him about what I had seen.

Suddenly, I looked up toward where my friend was sitting, and I stopped in my tracks. There was the crazy old guy, seated across from my friend and whispering to him in a conspiratorial tone.  I hung back, wary of drawing attention to myself, and waited for the man to leave. After less than a minute, he left, and I sat down and asked my friend what the old man had been talking about. Apparently, he just walked up to my friend and said, “You’re Ethiopian, aren’t you?”  The weird thing was that my friend was indeed Ethiopian, and he told the old man so. “What did he say after that?” I asked.  According to my friend, the old man continued to spout some confused, conspiratorial babble, warning my friend against associating with “white homosexuals” and “undercover terrorist cells,” among other things.

We were both a little weirded out, and we were laughing it off when we heard a voice yelling at us from the portion of Ring Road that borders the Zot-n-Go. It was the same old man!  He was walking toward Humanities Gateway, and he must have seen me talking with my friend as he walked past us. He was now yelling at my friend to “keep quiet” and to not “go around sharing what I talked to you about.”  Needless to say, we had a source of entertainment for the rest of the day, but I couldn’t quite shake off the sense of dread that I felt when I wondered whether this wasn’t the only crazy person roaming our campus.

I have seen my second “homeless person of note” several times.  This particular gentleman seems to have made Langson Library his favorite haunt. The man himself is nothing special at first sight (although he does give off a certain “homeless person” vibe), and I may not have even noticed him if it wasn’t for the three gigantic backpacks the size of laundry sacks that he lugs around with him.  I’ve spotted this man either sleeping or reading from a giant stack of books in Langson Library at least half a dozen times, and he is never without his giant bags.

Of course, there’s no way for me to know for sure whether these two men really are homeless, but I wasn’t born yesterday.  I’m sure that our beautiful campus is considered a veritable Valhalla amongst the vagrant masses, and I’m almost surprised that I haven’t seen more homeless people roaming around campus.  But this just makes me wonder whether there really are more crazy old guys lurking around campus.  This idea makes me especially afraid for any lone students walking around campus at night.

Personally, I know that I would feel a lot better if our campus security forces made an active effort to keep such people away.  After all, if skateboarders aren’t even allowed on campus anymore, then I think that we should be rid of the mentally unstable homeless.

A college campus is no place for a homeless person. There is little more distracting to a good library study session than the sight of the disheveled man sitting three chairs away, eyeing his pile of tomes with a strange look in his eye as he props his thin-soled shoes on the three humongous bags that hold all his worldly possessions.  I’m not sure what the procedure is for these kinds of things, but if you see a homeless person wandering on campus or lounging in the library, I suggest that you find the nearest campus employee and alert them to the fact. And for those of you traversing the campus alone at night, remember that a college campus (even one in good old, hum-drum Irvine) is just as likely to hold creeps as any other place, and you need to keep your eyes open!

Spencer Grimes is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at sgrimes@uci.edu.