Facing East Atherton Street, Morgan Weber, leader of the Butterfly Effect, sat on the grass in front of the Walter Pyramid. Signs reading “Help Humanize Homeless” and “End Student Homelessness at the Beach” decorated a small camping tent.
Weber has been organizing a “Sleep In” event for several semesters in order to raise awareness of the housing and food insecurity crisis college students, including those at Long Beach State, are facing.
Only this year, the sleep-in event looked much different.
Just nine months ago, Weber along with her fellow Butterfly Effect leader, Christopher Stevenson, were advocating with tents and other materials in front of Faculty Office-3, where much of the on-campus student body, faculty and staff could see.
Due to on-campus restrictions this fall, however, Weber said the “event” wasn’t an actual event, but rather a “piece of art while she was studying.”
The coronavirus pandemic has not only changed how the group advocates, Weber said, but how students are able to access resources.
“When you’re experiencing food insecurity and homelessness, you get a lot of your resources on campus that are physical campus with your feet on the ground, you’re not getting it through the computer,” Weber said. “So right now there are students that are having to choose between their basic needs being met and a higher education, and that should not be the case, it just shouldn’t exist..”
Weber has been advocating for an expansion of basic needs accessibility for years. Houselessness continues to affect the Long Beach area, and although data on those experiencing housing insecurity currently won’t be available for sometime, Weber said, she feels it’s clear that COVID-19 is exacerbating existing problems.
In the 2019 Point-in-Time Homeless Count conducted on Jan. 24, data showed that there were a total of 1,894 people experiencing homelessness in Long Beach, 4% being students.
As campuses in the California State University system continue with virtual instruction into the spring 2021 semester, access to on campus resources will again be altered.
“We’re going to go into another semester next semester where there is no on-campus, in-person contact,” Weber said. “Hidden students, forgotten students are going to be even more hidden.”
Weber said she believes that professors can make resources more readily available to students by adding information on accessibility to basic needs initiatives on their course syllabi, for instance.
“We have [information on] our disability department, we have no plagiarism, we have the teacher’s rules. But why can’t we have a basic needs paragraph?” Weber said. “Why [isn’t it required that every] professor puts the phone number of the basic needs program on there, the contact information [for the] basic needs initiative?”
Other solutions include, Weber said, establishing a community book exchange program to help alleviate costs of textbooks, and requiring professors to learn how the basic needs initiative works and how to appropriately refer students in need.
She said that although she is and “always has been housing secure” and food secure, she feels compelled to continue to advocate for these students.
“I’m not the person experiencing this on a daily basis, but I am the person that understands that people that are experiencing this have a lot more to handle,” Weber said. “They have a lot more to wake up in the morning and find a safe place to study, wake up in the morning and find a place to eat. The least I can do is come out on a day for five hours by myself and set up my tent, so I make everyone around my environment know that this is happening.”