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Explaining Our Needs

Brandon Zuniga

In one of my shifts doing outreach for the unhoused, I recall meeting a young couple who had to reside in a tent next to the 110 freeway in South LA. I am no stranger to working with unhoused youth, but it shook me to my core to see a young 19-year-old woman living in a tent just one block away from the infamous red district. It is apathetic to think anyone would choose such a fate or that, in any manner, it is unreasonable to give two young adults a place to live when they most need it. I couldn’t sleep that night. I have also slept in the streets, and I knew, without any doubt, what they would endure until the next morning. It weighs on me. I have met plenty of other young adults, including students with whom I share classes, who have had the same fate. It brings little to no pleasure when they are given a bag of food once a week with items they clearly won’t be able to cook inside their cars, tents, or whatever place they have come to label as home.

Handouts do not cure hunger; they barely prolong our demise with the illusion that we have more when we have been left with nothing. I can not walk a single block in this city without encountering tens or even hundreds of people surviving in the streets, under bridges, in burned mobile homes, in boxes in the dirt. People with whom I share my most human experiences, my pain, and the fear of seeing what little we have built demolished by the red and blue because someone else was displeased with our appearance. Because in my city, my color is still kin to my success. I’m told that hard work pays off, but to whom? A livable wage is nothing but a myth. I have spent my entire time in college working full time, yet I have no more than what I need for my next meal, and many of my colleagues have even less. 

I find it of the most despicable nature, the burden that is imposed on us to explain our own existence. I must profess to people who have never endured hunger in their lives why I deserve a piece of bread. Why do we need to explain why the young men and women of our native land deserve to live? 

Poverty has never been an accident nor a decision for the dispossessed. 

Today, once again, I find myself in the trenches with many other Young Invincibles in a fight for the survival of democracy, student debt, and economic justice. We celebrate the victories that have taken countless years to advocate for: the continued Calfresh expansion, investments in campus capacity, affordable housing for students, and the implementation of basic needs centers across college campuses. While we prepare for what is ahead, the fight for our own survival.

We no longer ask, we demand the right to an education free of the torment of hunger and the chains of debt; any less might signify a fatal blow to the most basic American virtue – our freedom.


Brandon Zuniga is a graduate from Los Angeles Trade Tech College, and is currently pursuing a bachelor degree in political science at Cal State LA. He works full time at a homeless youth center, and continues to represent Los Angeles in the Student Senate. He is truly passionate about advocating for community colleges, and hopes to build a career in the advocacy field for public education.