It is almost midnight and Adam Gray stands outside the entrance to the Oaks D-top building with a cell phone to his ear.
He paces back-and-forth with a slight edge of impatience. The call goes to voicemail, and he snaps his phone shut.
“Maybe he’s asleep already,” Gray says as he sits down on the stairs. “I’ll try him again in a few minutes. If not, I’ll just sleep in my car again.”
Gray is a sophomore at the University of La Verne who hails from Aurora, Colo.
He is studying business administration and was a member of the diving team last year.
As it turns out, he also had no place to live for the first five weeks of the semester.
Gray spent the last month sleeping in his car or on the floor under his friends’ beds on campus.
The fact that Gray, who was short on money and had not completed all the forms for housing or put down a deposit, put him in a tricky situation.
This was coupled with changes in housing policy that reserved entire residence halls for freshmen and then determined the rest of dorm assignments on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Putting your name on a waiting list and hoping for a spot is not very promising when you’re living out of your car,” Gray said.
Gray was one of the last to apply for housing last spring, and his incomplete application did not earn him a spot on the waiting list.
Plans to live off campus in a house with friends had also fallen through just before he left Colorado at the end of the summer.
This left Gray with limited options that included waiting for a dorm or beginning a desperate search for an apartment.
Following this series of unfortunate events, Gray returned to La Verne just days before the fall semester began with no place to live.
His month of misfortune and backaches ended last week when he found a place to stay, but his struggles were not easily forgotten.
“There are a lot of reasons I’m in the situation that I am,” Gray said. “To be honest, I put all my eggs in one basket. This housing situation seemed like it would work out, and when it didn’t, I wasn’t left with many options. I had planned to live off campus so I knew that having to come back and try to find a dorm was going to be difficult.”
Despite leaving his possessions in his car and spending most of his time away from the dorms, Gray received complaints in one residence hall for allegedly taking up too much space and had to relocate to another dorm.
“I think a lot of these kids don’t realize I’m from out of state and that I don’t live 20 minutes away and I’m not
trying to dorm for free,” Gray said.
“Most of them are local, so I think that’s why so many people aren’t sympathetic,” he added.
However, Gray’s situation is not as unique as it seems.
There are at least three other ULV students who also spent the first month of the semester either sleeping in their cars or under friends’ beds.
Current housing policy limits residents to having two overnight guests a month.This means that these students must often jump from room to room in order to avoid getting their friends in trouble and getting kicked out themselves.
“I was a little shocked to hear about other students living this way, because I thought there were only a few of us,” Gray said. “But I guess when you consider the situation of things at La Verne, it makes sense people are in the same situation.”
Gray moved into a loft apartment in Pomona last week with a fellow La Verne student, who had been living the same homeless lifestyle as Gray.
Although he has remained upbeat through his misfortunes, Gray admitted there are certain things he will not miss.
“I definitely won’t miss sleeping on the ground, because it’s been killing my back,” he said. “That and getting locked out all the time and even trying to get food; since I didn’t have any money, I only recently got a meal plan, and having to find a way to eat has been hard.”
Although Gray shoulders a lot of the blame for his living situation, he also feels that the University could have done more to help him.
“This whole experience for me has really cemented the idea that La Verne is, despite their best efforts, a commuter school,” Gray said. “I don’t feel like I was targeted or anything, but I think the University could have been more accommodating or recognized that I did need help when I asked.”
Sophomore Cristobal Gutierrez, who was Gray’s floormate last year, also felt the University could have done more to help.
“To see that he at one point had to sleep in his car is horrible,” Gutierrez said. “I’m happy he found a place to stay, but to see that the school couldn’t provide at least temporary housing for his situation is discouraging.”
“It was my choice to come here, and I’m on my own now, so I just have to cope with it for now,” Gray said. “I just hope that things change so other kids don’t have to go through this too.”
Lauren Creiman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.