SAIT as a homeless haven
It’s a cold, windy morning, and SAIT Campus appears to be vacant at 7 a.m. with the exception of a few silent visitors who are invisible to some.
These unnoticed visitors are homeless.
For a few individuals, SAIT campus has become a haven and a positive place to enrich their otherwise difficult situation.
Currently homeless and unable to work for mental health reasons, Anjie, as she refers to herself, spends nearly her entire day reading in the library.
“It’s safe here, I am around people my own age, and feel accepted,” said Anjie, a 24-year- old who’s spent the majority of her teens on the streets.
“A lot of us don’t have support from family and don’t have the means to get out of our situation,” said Anjie. She said she feels grateful to have a safe and positive environment to go to.
SAIT students’ attitudes are mixed about this silent presence on campus.
“If it were me, I could see (SAIT) being a safe, positive place to be,” said Darryl Schaldach, a second-year Information Technologies student.
In a city known for being both prosperous and progressive, to have any member of our community homeless has become intolerable for some.
“I just don’t understand why they can’t get jobs here in Calgary,” said Cristina Clark, a first-year Dental Assisting student. “I don’t want to deal with them loitering around.”
One particular individual, who frequents the SAIT campus, said SAIT’s learning environment is much like his former life. “Joe”, who asked that his identity be left confidential for his family’s protection, said he was once a professor of economics before becoming homeless.
“I didn’t choose this (being homeless), but it is a clear result of poor choices on my behalf,” he said. Joe comes to SAIT for his afternoon tea, to read the news and to listen in on the educationally enlightening conversations of students.
“I learn all the new information from students discussing what they are learning,” said Joe, and he prefers to come to SAIT for that reason.
“When I ask about it they are so excited to share their knowledge.”
According to the SAIT Campus Security Statistics report, during the month of December there was only one reported trespassing incident and a total of 15 reported since July, however not all of these are related to homeless individuals on campus.
“With such frigid weather increasing, the volume of homeless on campus increases and students need to be aware of the people in their surroundings,” said Barry Cochran, Chief of Security and Emergency Services at SAIT.
Cochran said that with a school population over 13,000, it’s difficult for security to identify non-SAIT members, and encourages people to report anyone who may appear suspicious. He said SAIT is public property, and security only asks people to leave if they’re acting in a negative way.
“As long as they don’t bother me, it’s OK,” said John Kirby, a second-year Petroleum Engineering student.
Kirby has never experienced a negative interaction with homeless individuals on campus and doesn’t see the need for concern regarding safety.
What is Homelessness?
Homelessness is defined by The City of Calgary as “those who do not have a permanent residence to which they can return whenever they so choose.”
Homelessness or the threat of homelessness affects individuals and families from every segment of our population including children, youths, seniors and immigrants.
The Salvation Army Poverty Report in 2010 found that 14 per cent of Albertans came close to experiencing or had experienced homelessness and an estimated 15,000 to 17,000 people used a Calgary emergency shelter for at least one night.
“Homelessness is a short-term experience for most people who experience it, but a lack in support, becoming homeless can extend for months or even years,” explains the Calgary Homeless Foundation website.