By Joanna Nell
CCC Journalism Program
CAMDEN — Camden is a city riddled with crime and poverty. However, within its borders lies a campus of New Jersey’s second largest community college — Camden County College. For the homeless, the campus is a place to meet basic needs — food, water, shelter, a bathroom. But for students and faculty, the homeless are an eyesore, and for security, a problem they would rather not have to deal with.
Mary Sweitzer, a young homeless woman, said she visited the campus many times to “get cleaned up” and sometimes to get something to eat.
“I went to a barbecue there about a month ago. They were giving out hot dogs and hamburgers, even pasta salad. It was really good,” Sweitzer said. “There are other places in the city I could eat but you can only get the food at certain times. Sometimes it’s a far walk, and the food’s not that great — the same food all the time. This was different.”
Sweitzer added she no longer uses the campus’s facilities.
“Two weeks ago I used the bathroom like I usually do and their fake cops came in saying they got complaints I was in there too long. They led me out to the real pigs, haven’t gone back since,” she said. “It’s too bad. It’s gonna be cold soon. That was a good place to try to blend in, sit down and stay warm.”
Third-semester CCC student Jessica Jeffries said she’s seen homeless people in the school.
“You can tell they’re homeless. Their clothes are ratty and old,” Jeffries said. “I feel bad for them I guess, but it makes the school look bad. They should go to a shelter or something.”
Still, many students said, they feel safe at the campus. Students who drive said it’s close to major highways. It’s easily accessible to students who take mass transit.
Some people said they believe there is a solution that could keep the homeless from loitering on the campus while still meeting their needs.
“More resources should be available to the city to set up staging areas where the homeless can utilize sanitary facilities and get something to eat without having to be a live-in member of a shelter,” said former student Caesar Leary. “Facilities such as these could alleviate the stress associated with eliminating the use of facilities by non-students.”