By Ac. Vimaleshananda Avt.
I was chatting with a friend who have experience with homeless people as a psychologist: “ a street university where the professors are homeless people … is it an original idea? Is it a practical idea?” He candidly answered that he thought the idea was original but he casted doubt it could be a practical one. “Bums? Bums as professors in a university? I don’t want to put you down but I think it is not possible.”
For an idea just born in the same morning it was a “good” start.
But the problem of homelessness cannot be denied or ignored. Although most big cities in the USA are spending huge public fundings to address at least the minimum requirements for survival of the homeless people, it is difficult to imagine a future where homeless people become an active and productive segment of society. Difficult but not impossible.
Homeless are not necessarily bums. A good number is educated or has adopted homelessness as an economic and somehow social way of living.
I remember meeting in the main shelter of Manhattan which hosts around 700 people a young man who was attending the courses of the university and choose to live in the shelter as he could not afford a different accommodation while continuing his study. He was not a bum by no means.
Redifining homelessness is a mental effort to break off from stereotypes and conceive practical solution for creating access to services to everybody . And education is and will always be a priority.
But a street university is neither designed for the homeless nor it is hosted in a street. Rather it is a way to respect and give value to the homeless experience and to the people who are passing into it or have been into it.
I believe that the process of setting up the street university will be extremely productive by itself. It will require a team of people able to interact and associate with homeless people.
Than it will come the academic part of creating courses which can be taught by homeless people.
And finally it will come the physical setting of the university and its administration.
Eventually a project proposal will be created with the associated funding request and documented progress so far achieved. In the meantime there is so much scope to get familiar with the homeless and learn from them as much as possible. Hard life is always a big teacher. Homeless people not only have the right for a better future, they might become the saviors in this crumbling capitalist era.
By the way I was searching for an appropriate image for the article and here it is what I found: