Students coexist with homeless in downtown Phoenix

For students living on Arizona State University’s urban campus in downtown Phoenix, encountering the homeless is a daily reality.

Aubrey Badger, an ASU sophomore public relations major, has encountered her fair share of colorful characters living on campus.

“During our orientation they gave us a little lecture about how to deal with panhandlers, and I anticipated them to be a bigger problem than they ended up being,” Badger said, “but they mostly keep to themselves.”

According to 2012’s “Homeless in Arizona” report, Phoenix experienced a 11.2 percent year over year increase in the  homeless population.

As a result, student interactions with the growing homeless population are not uncommon. Badger, originally from San Diego, says most students are able to adapt to the urban lifestyle, even after moving from smaller towns. But as Phoenix changes, so does the homeless population.

Jimmy and Gonzo lead Phoenix Uncut on a tour of several squatting locations not far from ASU's downtown campus
Jimmy and Gonzo lead Phoenix Uncut on a tour of several squatting locations not far from ASU’s downtown campus

“They’re braver here than they are other places … I’ve definitely been approached by a few homeless people and been asked for money,” Badger said.

Kathlyn Nguyen, a rising ASU junior broadcast journalism major, was born and raised in Phoenix before she moved into ASU’s downtown dorm. The student said she’s had mixed experiences with the homeless population.

“I feel for them because they’ve obviously been through some things in their life. But there are some times when it’s really aggressive,” Nguyen said, “and being a young female student living downtown without a car, it gets hard when you are harassed almost on a regular basis.”

And while encounters with the homeless can be uncomfortable, ASU police and students are doing their best to provide long-lasting solutions and maintain civility alongside the city’s less fortunate.

“I’ve had pleasant experiences with the homeless population … some of these people have the best stories that you will ever hear. Some of these people have been at the top of the world and now, as society sees it, they are at the bottom … there are stories to tell and there are lessons to be learned,” Nguyen said.

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