The unmentioned American casualties: homeless college graduates

By | May 28, 2012

20120527-224533.jpgThis afternoon while walking by the beach in the bay area I met a homeless college graduate. She seemed to be about 24 years old and she did not look homeless. She wore glasses and a long burgundy dress. When I first saw her I thought she was another hiker on the trail.

I realized otherwise when she ducked down and disappeared into a small passage in the dense foliage on one side of the trail.

Seeing that, I took off in a different direction. Somewhat lost for a bit, I began to realize I was in the middle of a hobo city. I noticed several tents hidden in the trees. Based on the size of the area and how close the tents were to each other there could could have been over forty people living there.

The sun was going down and I decided to play it safe and retrace my tracks to my car. On the way back, on a well lit open trail, I again encountered the young woman.

When we made eye contact she smiled and stopped. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked if she lived out here. She asked if I did. I said no, I was just out for a walk exploring and said, respectfully, that it was a beautiful place. I asked how long she’d lived here. She said not long.

How did she end up here? She said she was here because she was “over qualified.” She’d come from Pitsberg on the promise of a job, but they didn’t pay her. As we talked, I was surprised that she sounded clear, intelligent, sane and drug free. Why live in a tent in a hobo city? She said there were no jobs for chemists.

She had both job experience and a bachelors degree in analytical chemistry, but believed the economy would never recover and this is the beginning of the end.

I told her I felt the same after 9/11, but there hasn’t been a total collapse. You have to apply to a lot more jobs these days to get an interview, and you have to interview a lot more to get a job, but there are jobs, at least jobs you can use to cover the basics like food and shelter.

She said gets to the library a few times a week for her allotted hour of Internet use and I took her email address. If you know of any jobs for analytical chemists in the bay area, let me know.

I offered the ideas of going back to school to get her Masters or Ph.D. with student loans, or changing careers entirely, starting from the ground level.

She said she was willing to do yard work. Seemed like a nice person.

I believe we are in the mess we are in now due to our government pouring so much money into war and that if we can get out, the economy could recover.

3 thoughts on “The unmentioned American casualties: homeless college graduates

  1. Vic

    According to the Congressional Committee of the Budget, the U.S. is currently running a $5 Trillion deficit. Military spending accounts for about 10% of that $5 Trillion when normalized with respect to all other Gov spending. I don’t think military spending is to blame here. Living in a tent is a choice. This lady has choices other than being homeless. Mowing lawns, waiting tables, going back to school… teaching, even joining the service, what-ever it takes. I have a Chemistry degree, couldn’t find a job as a Chemist (or anything close to it), so I took night courses at a community college in C and Java, while during the day, I worked as a roofer (crappy back-breaking work). I am now a software developer at a start-up. Yeah, I know, good for me. My point is this. Being homeless sucks. If you’re young, healthy, and are even modestly educated, there is much you can do to avoid going homeless. I wish that lady well. But there must be more to her story than she’s letting on.

    BTW, I enjoy site. Thank you.


    1. Xeno Post author

      Thanks Vic. Yes, I’d agree that incorrect assumptions and self-defeating thoughts keep some people from doing whatever it takes.

      Regarding the war cost, the figure may be quite different. According to this, in 2008 the Congressional Budget Office said Defense accounted for 20%, but even that is low. The site claims the actual figure is 54% going to military spending.

      I read additionally that the ripple effect to local economies of paying for the war greatly magnifies the cost. In that case, it isn’t just military spending we need to count, but also the lack of investment in local infrastructure due to financing the war. In that way, sustained war increases costs to businesses, eliminates jobs, increases health care costs, and so on.

      The Cost of War web site has a running total since 2001. While people can debate what parts of our debt should and should not be counted as casualties of war, ending the wars and putting that money toward alternative energy and energy independence research is what I’ve been advocating.

      Long term thinking, world wide cooperation and innovation will save us, not the strongest countries killing for the last drops of oil, not funding wars on terror with money from Afghan opium.

      Driving home from meeting the homeless chemist, I was slowed to crawl for 15 minutes on the freeway and I passed a traffic fatality. The smell was horrible. I was in an accident where someone died and it gave me flashbacks. The threat to American lives seems much higher from driving than from terrorists. While I think terrorists are a (mostly) made up/exaggerated threat to justify war spending, I do also see the argument that our running out of oil would result in mass starvation in America.

      Perhaps the “master plan” is to fight these wars for oil just as long as we must until we do attain energy independence from some clean source like fusion.

      “Fusion powered electricity generation was initially believed to be readily achievable, as fission power had been. However, the extreme requirements for continuous reactions and plasma containment led to projections being extended by several decades. In 2010, more than 60 years after the first attempts, commercial power production is still believed to be unlikely before 2050.” – link

      1. Vic

        Xeno, re: “While people can debate what parts of our debt should and should not be counted as casualties of war, ending the wars and putting that money toward alternative energy and energy independence research is what I’ve been advocating. “… I am in 100% in agreement with you on this. Thanks for your comment and links. Very helpful. Vic

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