Some college students, forced to choose between eating and housing, sleep in their cars on campus, as the linked article illustrates:

These homeless but resilient college students featured in the article hack their way to a degree by showering in the gym, storing clothing in their lockers, and sharing food with other “campers.”

Clearly driven by the belief that they need a college degree and the learning that comes with it, these plucky students demonstrate a very internal locus of control, meaning that they focus on matters over which they have some control rather than on those beyond their reach. In the case of such students, their pre-existing belief and determination enables them to survive in a living arrangement that for many people would be untenable.

Of course, no rational person would recommend this as a life style or learning style. The students interviewed were coping with dire circumstances and doing so with the expectation that their housing status would change with the completion of their education.


Having a roof over one’s head is about as essential as it gets. As the accompanying pics demonstrate, there’s great diversity of roofing, depending largely on economic factors, but people around the world agree that having shelter is a basic need. Services for people in severe circumstances stress a housing first approach, which makes perfect sense.


People who are in recovery from an abusive relationship or from substance use disorder, or who were recently released from incarceration need secure housing in order to take the necessary steps forward. Of course, they need more than housing, but without a roof over their heads, their problems tend to spin out of control. For them, just acquiring safe housing can be a significant turning point in their lives. It can point them to new learning and to everything that comes with it.


Like college students, they are learners. They must be. If they fail to learn and to change certain beliefs, values, and practices, they know that they are headed nowhere good. Learning is what can save their lives. More about such learners in future posts.


Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the “Turning Points” weekly blog on City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.