Houseless PCC Students Surviving Without Essential Resources During the Shutdown
by Daniel Bloomfield
Before the COVID-19 campus shutdowns, student Emily Stone and her fiancé, PCC alumnus Kim Blackburn, relied heavily on campus resources for basic needs.
However, this isn’t the first time they have had to rally and adapt to adversity and they have a few words of hope and encouragement for people struggling to get through hard times.
Stone was attending classes for PCC’s microelectronics program while living out of her car with Blackburn and their emotional support cat when she first heard that the school would be moving to remote operations. During winter term, she and Blackburn were able to park their vehicle near the Cascade campus where they had access to some basic needs. They could use PCC’s Wi-Fi and access the Cascade P.E. facilities for showers. They could also regularly obtain food from the Panther Pantry in the Student Union Building, where they used the microwave oven and charged their electronics.
Stone suffers from reduced immunity due to fibromyalgia and sleep apnea. She has applied for a grant for a battery pack to keep her sleep apnea machine charged but without power from the school, she might not be able to charge it. “I’m really scared about what I may have to do,” Stone said. “I’m feeling very insecure about the dwindling resources.” Cascade’s campus security previously granted them limited access to outdoor power outlets so they could charge their phones.
The couple have been together and living in their car for the last five years, since Blackburn was forced out of her home due to family trouble. Having lived through other pandemics while houseless like H1N1 and bird flu, they have some unique bits of wisdom to impart.
Their advice is to not freak out at people showing symptoms, especially with the arrival of allergy season—Blackburn suggests that people should “get educated with facts instead of the news and to research ways to protect themselves.” For example, through her own research Blackburn learned why it’s important to know proper hand-washing technique: “soap destroys the [virus’ outer] layer of fat and the scrubbing scatters its interior.” They advise to always make sure to have plenty of sanitizer and cleaning products and want everyone to know to never mix ammonia and bleach.
Stone advises that since COVID-19 is highly contagious, make sure to cough into your elbow because it covers the most surface area. “Don’t freak out if someone is sneezing and coughing, it doesn’t mean they automatically have COVID:” with allergy season in full swing, hay fever symptoms are on the rise.
Stone and Blackburn also advise being prepared for anything. They understand that the houseless population is among the most vulnerable and the importance of being ready for anything—be it wildfire, pandemic, or earthquake. At any given time, they have multiple gallons of water, a stockpile of shelf-safe foodstuffs, and a shovel for digging ovens and latrines.
Perhaps most importantly, they suggest giving your loved-ones space when they need it and taking the time to get to know them again. “Relearn about your partner, because people are always changing.”