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Driving around Boulder reminds me just how lucky I am to attend a university in such a wonderful place, especially this time of year when the flatirons are frosted with fresh snowfall. Boulder is the quintessential college town and a place that I take great pride in. Driving around town in a warm car, however, I notice a striking difference between the average Boulderite pedestrian and the people standing on the street corner holding cardboard signs.
Despite having an average household income of about $92,000, according to a 2011 CNN Money report, Boulder has a problem with the homeless population even when compared to the 2010 Census’s $50,000 national average. I’m not naïve; I realize that other parts of the country are struggling to find appropriate social programs for the homeless, as well, but I find the difference between extreme wealth and poverty in Boulder both striking and saddening.
Treatment of the homeless in America and at CU is less than ideal. So often I’ve come across the mindset that the homeless are less than people or that they deserve to be in their situation because, for some reason, they did not work hard enough to be a part of the mainstream society.
Many homeless people are afflicted with mental illness or have come across hard financial times, just like many other families in America. Furthermore, without the access to proper resources and basic necessities that we take for granted (shelter, warm water, food and clothing) being homeless in the Front Range winter becomes more about surviving on a day-to-day basis rather than looking for work.
Boulder has several shelters and volunteer efforts that work to get the homeless population fed, sheltered, clothed and back on their feet including Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow and Bridge House. Despite the efforts of these organizations, some people fall through the cracks and resort to sleeping on the street. When CU students are embarking on skiing and snowboarding trips, the homeless population is suffering serious health problems due to exposure. Some die.
Students need to realize that being homeless is not a choice and these people don’t deserve to be treated as something other than the humans they are. As a university that prides itself on its service work and community outreach, I think we could afford to expand our efforts to address homelessness in our own community. The next time you’re driving home in your warm car and see a make-shift cardboard sign asking for money, remember that a human being like yourself made it.
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Bethany Morris at Bethany.firstname.lastname@example.org.