Saturday, August 13, 2011

Are You a "Couch-hopping," Homeless, Indebted Grad?

I want to expose another dirty secret about the student lending crisis, and that is the number of people who are couching-hopping and homeless. As I've said in several pieces in recent weeks, if it weren't for my gracious, loving in-laws, I'd be homeless at the moment. That is to say, if I were to try and stay in the U.S., I would not have a roof over my home. If my in-laws weren't around, I'd be fleeing the country to survive.

How many of you are grappling with homelessness?

Source: Lenscratch
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John in Boston said...

But for the grace of my own parents as well. I can't even post a dating ad because of the stereotypes of a middle-aged man living under his parents' roof. Yes, better than the alternative to which you allude in your post here. This is all so fucking unnecessary, and so fucking insulting in this land of plenty (albeit almost all of that plenty is sponged by the top 1% of income earners in this country - maddening that there are so many who insist that's some sort of dramatic hyperbole, even while their own incomes, and lives, have been essentially in stall mode for at least ten years).

Cryn Johannsen said...

It is infuriating. That's why we have to channel that fury and change the path - you don't want it. I don't want it. There are MILLIONS of Americans who don't want it to be this way.

Check this out:

Watch the video.

Nando said...


I lived in my sister-in-law's basement for five months, until I could save up and get my own place. I know that this is the case for legions of college grads, as well as those with advanced and "professional" degrees.

I met a friend, who is a physician. He is now 36 - his wife is 38 - and they do not own a home. Their families have helped them pay their bills. My brother-in-law just started practicing dentistry. He and his wife have mooched off of family for the last 5 years. (My wife and I bought them a used van for $1,200 and donated it to them, so they could have transportation.)

"Higher education" is a commodity, and the students are taking it up the ass.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Higher education should not be a commodity. It should be part of the PUBLIC GOOD. But everything has been turned over to the market, and that is why higher education has been corrupted.

Rose, Esq. said...

I'm one of the "lucky" ones. I met my husband during law school and moved in with him when I graduated this May. Thankfully my husband, while not rich by any means, has a job that allows him to keep a roof over our head. If not for getting married, I would be moving back in with my parents with no end in sight. As it is my loans are deferred because I have been unable to find a job. I *wish* I could be making loan payments. I don't want to live with interest piling up. But I have no choice. It is so disheartening.

Cryn Johannsen said...

I understand, Rose. I am struggling to keep AEM afloat and am also a freelance journalist. But it is worth it. It's very worth it. I could leave the country - I've been offered teaching jobs abroad - but that would mean leaving this fight behind as well as my husband. Hang in there, we'll get through together.

J Larson, the DVD Fairy said...

I have been homeless and out of work for over a year. When I walked the line back in 2010, there was no room for me to move home (father lives on the other end of the country, mother with breast cancer (now recently deceased) living with my brother, who has three children, and another sibling with five children). For me, it has been "but for the grace of my closest friends". I had a friend and his boyfriend who said I could move in with them until I got on my feet. What began with me sleeping on an air mattress in their living room eventually led to me taking up their spare room when my presence became preferential to a lazy, unkempt roommate who was actually paying rent. When I got my tax return for the half-year I worked before graduating, I used the money to pay off a credit card (so I would have no more monthly bills I could not afford to pay), and bought a bed, as I did not own one before then, as my brothers had given away most of my furniture that was waiting at home for me to claim. Most of my loans are on "income contingent" plans but my one Perkins loan is just deferred because I'm unemployed. I'm starting to get letters in the mail suggesting I start paying back on interest, and I can't. It's frustrating. It's a sad, SAD state of existence when your wildest dreams involve having a steady job and being able to eat like a normal human being, look after one's health like a normal human being, replace things that get broken, and make payments on bills.

Vanessa Vaile said...

AFTNJ Chapter 2222 is planning a student indebtedness awareness (debt to income ratio) activity/demonstration for CEW (Campus Equity Week). This is a promising sign since academic labor, COCAL, CEW etc have not been paying much attention to the indebtedness issue. I am also hoping that the CFHE (Campaign for the Future of Higher Education) and understand that adjunct/contingent faculty groups participating have requested that it be part of the campaign (common sense, I'd think)

Anonymous said...

I live in my parents basement. If it were not for my family I would maybe not be in the streets, but I would be one step away.

Fortunately though, I have a large and loving family.

The upside to living here is that I can look after my older parents in case there is a medical emergency. My siblings are glad for that too. And there have been trips to the emergency room over the last few years because, after all, older people have more health problems.

If I were to try and get a Garden apartment, which I cannot afford anyway, my credit is wrecked, and I would not be approved.

So I would have to rent some dump.

I agree with John in Boston though. I feel so low, I would never try online dating.

Why impose my ruined, indebted life on another?

What am I supposed to do? Lie and say I am not in debt?

And as JIB says, living with ones parents is a real downer in the eyes of date.

I joke sometimes that I am like George Costsanza, and shrug it all off.

But it really isn't very funny at all.

And I look at established families and happy couples and feel like such a pariah.

Mrs. F said...

Housing, healthcare, and higher education SHOULD NOT BE A COMMODITY. justice is a right. A criminal gets a public defender. But what about those who do everything right? It's not fair.

I feel sorry for people who have to take out loans right now because it is getting worse. But loans are necessary because no working class individual is going to have the capital to invest in a higher education at a young age.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mrs. F - EXACTLY. Education should not be a commodity. It should not be part of the market system. That is why it has been corrupted. We need to have a serious, national conversation about that fact. That is what has gotten us into this mess. The same goes for health care.

Thanks so much for sharing.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@J Larson - thanks so much for sharing your story. Would you be willing to be interviewed for a follow-up piece? If so, please email me ( You don't have to reveal your true identity - you can remain anonymous, just as others who have reached out to me have. Your story says a lot about how off track we are.

It took a lot of courage to share here, and I am greatly appreciative.


One Who Survived said...

Re how "commodification" operates (yes including "higher education", now a citadel of darkness in which "publications" are the equivalents of billable hours) you might find the following disturbing metaphor useful:

Anonymous said...

I feel lucky, if it was not for my parents I would probably be on the streets or dead. I am a graduate from a top 15 law school, and I never thought my life would be where it is now. A lot of times I feel depressed and frustrated. One of my biggest fears is having no dental or medical insurance. As a side note, a lot of people talk about access to justice, but no one puts emphasis on access to dental treatment. I keep my expenses down but I need several thousand dollars worth of dental treatment. I could have done anything, became a doctor or a dentist but I spent my resources on pursuing law. It has made me bitter and angry at law schools, law professors, administrators, and the ABA for letting the legal field become so messed up.

Charles Bivona said...

I’ve been looking for work, any work, since I left my PhD Program in May—something I can do during the day, while I keep freelance writing at night. OR some way to get paid to write on a regular basis. So far, nothing. And I’m not picky about employment. A job is a job, but America is just barren.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Could you go overseas? Have you thought about that? I assume you have teaching experience, and obviously advanced degrees. You could easily get a job in Dubai, China, S. Korea, Japan, etc. I lived in S. Korea last year, and I was PAYING off my debts. It was incredible. Not only that, I could actually buy basic things (socks, make-up, etc.) and go out on the weekends without breaking the bank. It was great. However, I need to be here, and I have decided to stay and make a point to raise holy hell about the student loan scammery that is going on. This MUST end. Not in the future. But NOW. I'm sick of waiting, and I'm not going to take that as an answer anymore. Our leaders bend over backwards for billionaires (as Buffet recently pointed out). It's time they bend over backwards for hard-working Americans.

I have articles about people who have lived abroad, and I have helped someone find a job in Korea. He's set to leave in late Sept or early Oct.