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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2015/12/hes-a-college-senior-with-a-3-6-gpa-and-hes-homeless/

Talent & education

He’s a college senior with a 3.4 GPA. And he’s homeless.

Ramone Williams, a 26-year-old senior at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, has been homeless since Fall semester 2015 despite working two part-time jobs. He attends school full-time as a media, communications and theater arts major but because he receives no financial aid, the majority of his income goes toward tuition and fees. He survives, he says, by living "a minimalist life." (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

Ramone Williams, a 26-year-old senior at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, has been homeless since Fall semester 2015 despite working two part-time jobs. He attends school full-time as a media, communications and theater arts major, with the majority of his income going toward tuition and fees. He survives, he says, by living “a minimalist life.” (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

YPSILANTI – Ramone Williams is always hungry, but at the end of a Shakespeare class recently at Eastern Michigan University, he was ravenous.

As usual when it was too cold to sleep in his van, Williams had slept in the college library the previous night. He awoke on a bench in the computer lab just 30 minutes before his first class. He rushed to the student recreation building to take a shower, using toiletries and grabbing fresh clothes from a locker he keeps at the facility.

He didn’t have time to visit a second locker, the one in the Student Center where he stores bags of snack food he gets from a free food pantry on campus, before classes started.

At 3:15 p.m., with his last class behind him, Williams headed for the Student Center food court, doing some quick arithmetic in his head. He likes to carry a can of soup in his backpack, but he’d had his last can of sausage gumbo for dinner the day before.

Williams stops at his minivan to pick up the clothing and personal items he'll need for the following day. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

Williams stops at his minivan to pick up the clothing and personal items he’ll need for the following day. Click to enlarge. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

That meant he was going to have to buy a meal. Subway was too expensive. He liked the pita and hummus at the Middle Eastern eatery, but it wasn’t filling enough to sustain him until the next morning. He decided on a Wendy’s value meal that included a small cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, fries and a drink. At $4, the meal was more than he likes to spend at one time.

“This is what gets me anxious,” he said.

Williams is a college senior, reports a 3.4 grade point average and says his ambition is to work in radio, TV or information technology. He’s also homeless, sleeping on campus and searching bulletin boards for student events serving food.

He works two part-time jobs. That money is enough for tuition or a place to live, but not both.

Williams is choosing a degree over a home.

“My worry isn’t where I’m going to be at night,” Williams said. “My worry is how am I going to complete what I need to do?”

Invisible on campus

Homeless students like Williams often fall through the cracks of federal, state and institutional financial aid programs that often are not designed to help students in extreme poverty.

UPDATE: Bridge readers open hearts and wallets for homeless student
SLIDESHOW: Portrait of a homeless student

All 15 public universities in the state have a staff member designated as a contact for homeless students, but a point of contact doesn’t necessarily mean financial support. At some schools, many long-term homeless students (particularly those who were in foster care) can attend for free. At other schools, including Eastern Michigan with its more modest endowment, homeless students don’t necessarily get more of a tuition break than the children of middle-class parents.

Both in Michigan and nationally, Ramone Williams’ story illustrates the economic hurdles faced by extremely low-income students trying to earn a college degree, and underscores why so few graduate.

At a personal level, his story may mean even more. At a time when six out of 10 believe the American dream is dead, Williams proves how far some are still willing to travel to reach that dream.

“Don’t give up. Never lose faith,” Williams said. “If this went on another 10 years, … it would be worth it.”

Library bench for a bed

Williams is far from alone. With colleges not required to identify and track homeless students on their campuses, the federal financial aid form (FAFSA) provides the only indication of the scope of the problem. About 56,000 students nationally checked a box on the FAFSA indicating they are homeless.

“We think there are a lot more,” said Barbara Duffield, director of policy and programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, a national advocacy organization for homeless students. “Many are embarrassed to admit it or don’t think they’re homeless because they haven’t stayed in a homeless shelter. A lot are staying in cars or sleeping in libraries.”

Williams regularly sleeps in the 24-hour computer lab at the EMU library. (Bridge Photo by Brian Widdis)

Williams regularly sleeps in the 24-hour computer lab at the EMU library. (Bridge Photo by Brian Widdis)

They’re the most invisible of vulnerable groups on campus, said Cyekeia Lee, director of higher education initiatives for the same organization. “People think they haven’t seen homeless on campus,” Lee said. “It’s not going to be some old man in seven coats on the corner. It’s going to be a young person in a jogging suit looking just like everybody else.”

Williams tries to keep it that way, avoiding drawing attention to what he calls “my situation.”

When the weather was warmer, the 26-year-old Flint native slept in his 2007 Grand Caravan in parking structures and parking lots that are free or unpatrolled at night. When the temperature dropped, he began sleeping on a bench behind a partition in EMU’s 24-hour computer lab to avoid the eyes of fellow students. He thinks fewer than 10 people at the university, staff and students combined, know he is homeless.

“I don’t want to be a distraction,” Williams said. “I feel like if I were to tell someone higher up, it might be detrimental to the school, for them to have knowledge that someone is homeless going to their school. Maybe it’s against the rules or something. Maybe I’d get in trouble.”

The senior, majoring in communication media and theater arts, is indistinguishable from his classmates beyond the contents of his backpack, which is stuffed with clothing rather than textbooks and pens.

“That’s what I work on, not giving the impression I’m homeless.”

William has never had it easy. His father wasn’t in the picture when he was young, and his mother moved to New Orleans, leaving him and his brother to be raised by their grandmother in Flint. His mother died when he was 13.

Williams’s grandmother paid for the boys to go to Catholic school. “I got a perfect attendance award in elementary school and high school,” Williams said. “She made sure of that.”

He earned an associate’s degree in computer information systems at Mott Community College in Flint, and enrolled at Eastern to get a bachelor’s degree. For a year, he shared an apartment with several classmates.

But last year his grandmother fell ill, forcing Williams to drop out of school and care for her for more than a year. He returned to campus to complete his senior year this fall, when his grandmother moved into an assisted living center. He had enough cash to pay tuition, but nothing else.

Others might be angry. Many would give up. But Williams, wearing a Carhartt stocking cap and well-worn sneakers, keeps trudging from the tub of clothing he keeps in his car, to classes, to Dom’s Bakery, where he pulls a tea bag from his backpack and dips it into a 25-cent cup of hot water.

Williams has a donut and cup of tea at Dom's Bakeries. To save money, he always asks for a cup of hot water so he can use his own tea bag. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

Williams has a donut and cup of tea at Dom’s Bakeries. To save money, he always asks for a cup of hot water so he can use his own tea bag. Click to enlarge. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

“My grandmother fought so hard for me to go to school,” Williams said in a quiet voice. “I realize how difficult it is to go college, let alone finish it. But I feel that if I can complete it, I’ll have more freedom; that somehow I’ll be able to flourish and it’ll be worth it. So I keep grinding, getting through the day, every day.”

Student loans and resiliency of steel

“The resiliency of college homeless students is astonishing,” said Duffield, of the national advocacy group. “The misperception is that if you’re homeless, you should try to get any kind of job and higher education shouldn’t be on your radar. When in reality, students know that higher education is the only way out of their circumstance. It is an absolute necessity if they’re going to get on with their lives.”

Another misperception: students so poor that they can’t afford shelter qualify for enough financial aid to go to any college for free.

Students can apply for federal need-based financial aid. But federal aid for low-income students, known as Pell Grants, tops out at $5,775 for a school year in 2015-16. That’s about half of the average annual net cost paid by Eastern Michigan University’s low-income students, those with income below $30,000 a year ($10,938 in 2012-13, the most recent year data is available.)

(See average net costs at all Michigan public universities here.)

Homeless students often struggle to successfully complete financial aid forms, which require information such as previous tax records and permanent addresses. “There are some real policy and practice barriers” to assisting homeless students, Duffield said.

Financial aid officers have some discretion, and can help independent homeless students fill out their paperwork, according to Hannah Duckwall, financial aid counselor at Western Michigan University, which has a well-known program for students who were formerly in foster care.

But many homeless students like Williams have developed survival skills from being left to fend for themselves in life, and don’t ask for help. Only about a quarter of Michigan State University students (100 out of 400) identified through financial aid forms as having experienced homelessness or been in foster care as teens are receiving academic, social and financial assistance through the university’s program to help that vulnerable population.

“It’s not a situation they’re proud of,” Duffield said. “There’s a lot of fear and shame and it makes it very challenging.”

“I don’t want to be a distraction. I feel like if I were to tell someone higher up, it might be detrimental to the school … Maybe it’s against the rules or something. Maybe I’d get in trouble.”

Always living on the economic edge, Williams’ financial situation was made more tenuous this semester because he’d already received Pell Grants for the maximum-allowed 12 college semesters (including four at community college).

To pay for tuition for the fall semester, Williams said he took out a $2,500 federal loan, and paid another $2,500 that he’d earned in jobs over the summer.

All told, he owes about $10,000 in federal loans.

The fate of students like Williams matters not only on an individual level, but a statewide economic matter as well. Michigan is below the national average in percentage of adults with college degrees. Improving Michigan’s college-completion rates is key to boosting family earnings and the economy as a whole. Students from middle- and upper-income families already complete college at high rates; it’s the children of low-income Michigan families that are struggling.

“It’s common sense – college costs play a much bigger role in outcomes for low-income students than for students from higher-income families,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network. “If low-income students are going to play a critical role in Michigan’s economic comeback public universities ought to prioritize need-based financial aid.”

Worrying about a tragedy

Joi Rencher is typing another memo, this one to an Eastern Michigan University regent, asking for more help for the school’s homeless students. “I have a big mouth, and if things need to be known, I’m not afraid to make them known,” Rencher said. “It hasn’t cost me my job yet.”

Joi Rencher works with homeless students at Eastern Michigan University, including operating a small food pantry. (Bridge photo by Ron French)

Joi Rencher works with homeless students at Eastern Michigan University, including operating a small food pantry. Click to enlarge. (Bridge photo by Ron French)

As head of EMU’s MAGIC (Mentorship, Access, Guidance In College) program assisting homeless students and students who have been in foster care as teens, Rencher has become an outspoken advocate for some of the university’s most vulnerable students.

Rencher said “it is insane” that students like Williams, who is part of the MAGIC program, have to be homeless to afford college. “Eastern doesn’t have a lot in the bank (for need-based financial aid) compared to other schools. There aren’t private donors setting up scholarships for these students.”

She has very little money to assist the six homeless EMU students she works with. So Rencher provides them with practical information, such as which parking garages are free on weekends in case they need to park their vehicles someplace sheltered from the wind. She gives them directions to Ypsilanti food banks, and keeps metal filing cabinets outside her office filled with cans of soup, ramen noodles, tea, hot chocolate, gloves, toothbrushes and soap.

“If there’s a workshop, I always make sure there’s food,” Rencher said. “Even if other departments are having events with food, I let him (Williams) know.”

In November, Rencher brought Williams to a faculty-only Thanksgiving luncheon so he could fill a plate with turkey and stuffing.

Williams is in the minority – few students who have experienced homelessness or foster care even make it to college, let alone break down the barriers to earn a degree.

“When you don’t have a place to live, all you can think about is, where am I going to sleep tonight? So how could you focus on your education? Rencher said. “For the six I work with, it’s amazing. They say education is the only way out of this situation.”

Michigan’s 15 four-year public universities all have a staff member designated as a contact person for homeless students, one of only five states to have such a system.

Williams uses his Dodge Caravan as a rolling closet and, in warmer weather, bedroom. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

Williams uses his Dodge Caravan as a rolling closet and, in warmer weather, bedroom. Click to enlarge. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

“Some are doing a stellar job implementing campus programs for food and shelter,” Duffield of the national homeless student organization said.

For example, students designated as homeless at Michigan State University typically get free tuition and housing, said Andrea Martineu, coordinator for MSU’s FAME program. FAME matches students with academic mentors and holds social events. MSU also keeps some dorms open and rents hotel rooms for students who don’t have a place to go to over the holidays.

At the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the Blavin Scholars program offers a variety of academic and mentoring services for students who were in foster care. Program participants have a 95-percent graduation rate. U-M’s generous level of financial aid allows students with extreme financial hardship typically to attend at no charge, said Emily Hurtado-Arboleda, of the Blavin program.

Schools with less financial wherewithal than U-M and MSU can still offer services by being creative, Duffield suggested. Universities can keep their dorms open during holiday breaks so homeless students have a place to go. George Mason University in Virginia allows students on college cafeteria meal plans to donate unused meals for the use of low-income students who don’t have meal plans.

“It’s not rocket science,” Duffield said. “It just takes awareness of the issue.”

The MAGIC program at Eastern Michigan operates on a shoestring. It is funded by a grant to assist students who were in foster care, so Rencher can’t use funds for the homeless. A few individual donors allow Rencher to stock the food pantry and have a handful of gift cards in her office.

“I could do something with $10,000,” Rencher said. “I could get gift cards to Target and Walmart for clothes. Kroger has a hot deli so we could get hot food.”

Changes may be coming. In response to questions about this story, Geoff Larcom, executive director of communications for Eastern Michigan, said EMU “has identified the issue of homeless college students as an area of concern that needs attention.” Larcom said the university “will hold a series of meetings in January and February to discuss the challenges that students experiencing homelessness face; the prevalence of the situation at EMU; ways to positively impact these students’ experiences; and how to collaborate across the campus in an effort to provide resources and support for our students.”

Those meetings are a surprise to the EMU office in charge of homeless student services. While Larcom told Bridge the meetings “far predate your inquiry,” Rencher said Wednesday she was “completely unaware of any attempts to hold meetings to discuss this issue.”

Rencher said she hopes it doesn’t take a tragedy to raise awareness of homeless students. “My biggest fear right now,” she said, is finding a student “frozen in a van.” I don’t want it to have to get to that point.”

Williams wears a big smile after presenting his Shakespeare monologue to a class in December. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

Williams wears a big smile after presenting his Shakespeare monologue to a class in December. Click to enlarge. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

In a few days, most of the Eastern Michigan campus will be closed for the holidays. Most students will rush home to the warm embraces of families, trees surrounded by presents and kitchens filled with the smell of fresh-baked cookies. The library, where Williams sleeps, will be locked for 10 days.

Williams is unsettlingly calm about the prospect of sleeping in a Grand Caravan over Christmas and New Year in Michigan, where the temperatures will likely plummet below freezing.

“Maybe it’ll be cold. Maybe it won’t,” he said. “There are some parking structures where there’s shelter from the wind. If it’s too cold, I can walk around Meijer.”

CVS has large bags of kettle corn for $1, Williams said. It’s filling enough to last through a day. And some public libraries will be open.

“I know it’ll get better, but I don’t know where better is yet,” Williams said. “I just know it’s somewhere. I just have to find it.

“A lot of people give up easily,” Williams said. “It’s easy to feel hopeless. But I will get through it.”

Tuesday night, Williams finished his last class for the semester – singing in front of an audience for a musical performance class. It was an anxious moment for someone who tries to stay invisible.

“I’m learning that I have to feel I belong here,” he said. “I don’t have to apologize for my situation. That’s taken time.”

He stepped on the stage, and launched into a song from the Broadway musical “Shenandoah.”

Papa’s gonna make it all right, babe,
Papa’s gonna make it all right.
So hushabye and don’t you cry,
Papa’s gonna make it all right.

Williams, left, takes a bow with his Shakespeare monologue class. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

Williams, left, takes a bow with his Shakespeare monologue class. (Bridge photo by Brian Widdis)

You’re gonna flourish and grow, babe,
You’re gonna flourish and grow.
Like daffodils on rollin’ hills
You’re gonna flourish and grow.

Papa’s gonna scare off the summer storm.
No rain shall fall on your head.
Baby’s gonna be all safe and warm,
Tucked in your very own bed.

Papa’s gonna make it all right, babe,
Papa’s gonna make it all right.
Now don’t you fret or be upset.
Papa’s gonna make it all right, babe,
Papa’s gonna make it all right.

(Update: Numerous Bridge readers have asked how they can help Ramone Williams. A GoFundMe account has been set up in his name here, and a separate GoFundMe account to support homeless student services at Eastern Michigan, is here. For more information or to make a donation to homeless student services at Eastern Michigan University, call 734-487-0899.)

UPDATE: Bridge readers open hearts and wallets for homeless student
SLIDESHOW: Portrait of a homeless student

To reach Ron French, email him at rfrench@bridgemi.com

Ron French was a reporter at The Detroit News for 15 years before helping launch Bridge in 2011. He can be reached at rfrench@bridgemi.com . See more stories by him here.

Williams walks alone on campus on a recent December night. (Bridge Photo by Brian Widdis)

Williams walks alone on campus on a recent December night. “My worry isn’t where I’m going to be at night,” he said. “My worry is how am I going to complete what I need to do?” (Bridge Photo by Brian Widdis)

69 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Jim H

    Has someone helped him fill out the FAFSA. Unless I am missing something, this looks like a Pell Grant candidate to me.

    1. Ron French

      Hi Jim,
      Yes, Ramone’s income would qualify him for a Pell Grant, but there are a limit to the number of semesters a student can receive a Pell, and he’s maxed out. Previously, Pell Grants were how he afforded housing while attending college. Thanks for reading.

    2. DD

      Jim – it says above he did receive the Pell grant of $5700, but tuition is $10,983. He’s done very well so far to have only $10,000 in loans. The national average is 25K.

    3. AP

      I am going to assume that you glazed on the paragraph that said ‘Always living on the economic edge, Williams’ financial situation was made more tenuous this semester because he’d already received Pell Grants for the maximum-allowed 12 college semesters (including four at community college).”

      Plus, it’s holy heck trying to prove “independent student”…and even more difficult without having tax info. The FAFSA system has become increasingly difficult over the past decade.

  2. Rose C.

    Has anyone stepped up to offer him a place to spend Christmas?

  3. MW

    This is heart-breaking. If we would like to send some money to the MAGIC program at EMU, can we mail a check payable to “MAGIC” or “EMU” to the address in the MAGIC link?

    1. Ron French

      I’d suggest calling the number listed in the story, 734-487-0899, to ask them the best way to make sure donations get where you want them to go. thanks, Ron French

      1. Char G.

        I reached out to MAGIC they are going to assist.

        1. Jessie D.

          Char you said

          “I reached out to MAGIC they are going to assist.”

          What is MAGIC going to assist with?

  4. James

    Sometimes, the Dean of Students or Academic Studies has money to help seniors finish their last year of college.

  5. Renee

    Ron, this is such a powerful story and points out a great need to help people who fall in the cracks. I reached out to Joi regarding Ramone. You can also send donations to Eastern Michigan University, MAGIC Program, 301 Pierce Hall, Ysilanti, MI 48197

    1. sue

      Thanks Renee. I have some gift cards that I think can do more there than buying us MORE stuff. Hang in there Ramone. And all the other kids striving against odds. MAGIC…I hope you’re mailbox overflows

  6. Kathryn

    I can’t say enough about the support that U of M offers to homeless students. They are helping a student that we took into our home last year with amazing resources both financial and in and out of the classroom. FAFSA is not that difficult for a student to complete and while there is a section asking for homeless status, it is made easier for the universities if the high school had already classified the student as homeless using federal standards, which happened for our student. It is more difficult for the universities if a student is still legally attached to the parents and they don’t assist with their tax information. U of M does provide housing for the homeless/foster students if needed over breaks including a bridge program during the summer break.

  7. Char G.

    Is there GoFundMe account in place? Would the writer consider setting one up. Is he searchable on Facebook? I could give through the Facebook Money send application. Please advise.

    1. Ron French

      Char G, I’m not aware of a GoFundMe account yet, though it’s a good idea. If someone sets one up, we’d help get the word out. Also, the MAGIC office at Eastern is taking donations. Ramone does have a Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/biggmone?fref=ts

      1. Jessie D

        Ron, I hope you got the okay from Ramone to share his facebook account?

  8. Sue

    Well, those in the EMU Ivory Tower have lost their way. You are there to educate our youth not bankrupt them. EMU is disgusting with a 36% graduation rate and I am sure blames the students or the government when the cost of an EMU education there is outrageous and costs out of control. Why not set a price for college and you can take as many classes as you need until you graduate? Fixed pricing.

    There are so many nice building perks that the students do not need–clearly for the staff. You have lost your way EMU and others.

    Instead of handing out scholarships for sports to foreign students, why not take care of those who really need the help.

    1. Gary

      Those graduation rate numbers are based on so many underlying factors as to make comparisons among institutions meaningless. Each student population has its own characteristics that determine whether the average student can graduate in 6 years. Of course, graduation rate is based on a 6-year timeframe. Why? Because that is what the NCAA uses. So, of course we n=must use what athletic organizations use!

      1. Sarah

        “Of course, graduation rate is based on a 6-year timeframe. Why?”

        Better question is why are you, the media and college administration casually referring to 6-year grad rates for 4-year degrees? All of your excuses are bologna; heartfelt exceptions, not the norm. The real reason is because our public high schools are graduating kids that test at middle school levels & university officials are eager to enroll these gullible low-capacity students who spend 150% of the money for a 50/50 shot at a cupcake bachelors.

    2. Molly

      Sue, I understand your dismay with EMU’s low graduation rate, but the flipside to it is that they take on many higher-risk students that other four-year universities won’t. Yes, UM has a 90% graduation rate, but they only accept students who can be successful just about anywhere. EMU offers remedial courses and support services for students who might not have adequate preparation but have a shot at getting ahead by obtaining a four-year degree. They also have a high percentage of part-time and nontraditional students who are simply not going to finish their degree in 4 years, yet we still compare EMU to schools where students are almost exclusively 18-22 and can afford to go full-time. I’ve also heard that EMU has the highest enrollment of men of color in the state and they have initiatives specifically aimed at improving outcomes for them as well as other students consider higher risk. The fact that they even have and are willing to speak publicly about a program to help homeless students speaks volumes about their priorities.

  9. Jeff

    Following the links in the story, donations to the MAGIC fund can be made here: https://www.emich.edu/foundation/give/?fund=02016

    EMU BBA ’87

  10. Laura

    Covenant House Michigan provides housing to young adults. Besides a safe/warm place, CH provides guidance and assistance for finishing school and getting a job. Ramone would be a good prospect for CH transitional housing, plus, he would be good mentor for the other residents

    http://www.covenanthousemi.org/

  11. Alex

    Have you guys started a way to possibly give him some money? I looked around the library a bit with a 20 in hand trying to find him. The guy deserves it much more than I do.

    1. Ron French

      Alex, at the moment, we’re suggesting people contact the MAGIC office at Eastern Michigan to make donations, either to the program as a whole that helps homeless students, or to Ramone specifically. The number is: 734-487-0899

  12. Victoria

    All, I am setting up a GoFundMe account now for Ramone. Stay tuned for the link. I’m on the board of directors for Covenant House Michigan. Unfortunately, our target demographic is a bit younger than Ramone (18-22). I am, however, sharing this story with those who I believe can assist him in various ways.

    1. Ron French

      Thank you Victoria! Please let us know and we’ll add the link for the account to our article. Such an overwhelming response!

    2. Rena Stover

      Please let me know when this is set up. I want to contribute ASAP with no fundi delay to him. Thank you so much.

      1. Ron French

        Rena, there is a GoFundMe account set up for Ramone, at http://www.gofundme.com/ramonewilliams
        and another account set up for the homeless student program, at https://www.gofundme.com/EMUhomelessprogram

  13. KG-1

    At the risk of asking an obvious question: How does a “homeless” person not only enroll in college, but is able to apply (and receive) loans as well?

    The article ignores this completely.

    1. afb

      the federal government loans provided to undergraduate students through the FAFSA (free application for federal student aid, completed online) requires no collateral, income, and only requires the student to be enrolled in at least 6 credit hours each term. the student can even use the university address if they do not have one of their own.

      1. KG-1

        Regarding the loans, THX.

        But I’m still wondering how he was able to enroll in a college?

        1. Nancy Derringer

          The story is clear about his history: Two years at Mott, transfer to EMU, dropped out for a year to take care of his grandmother, came back to school with no fixed address when she moved to assisted living. Do colleges do home investigations prior to enrollment? All you need is a mailing address, and the post office provides those pretty inexpensively.

          1. KG-1

            I never said that the article wasn’t, Ms. Derringer, except for how he managed to sign up for classes each semester (and get loans to pay for them).

            Given the fact that he brings his own tea bags to save money on his meals, getting something like a P.O. Box sounds a little out of his price range.

            Things have obviously changed since I went to school, because they always asked me for some for of ID whenever I registered each semester just to make sure that I was paying the appropriate rate.

        2. Virgodancing

          KG-1 I think you’re concerned about the wrong aspect of this story! It doesn’t matter how he was able to register for classes, the fact is he’s homeless and still trying to succeed despite his circumstances. From what I read he’s doing better than some students who aren’t facing any of the challenges he is. Yes, things have changed, you can register online and there’s no need for id,…. It is 2015!
          Come off your high horse and have a heart, show some compassion!✌🏽️

          1. KG-1

            Again, this wasn’t a knock at Mr. Williams.

            It would be nice to think happy-happy thoughts and leave my front door unlocked, but this isn’t Canada.

            Things most definitely have changed since I went to school, not necessarily all for the better.

            Just something to keep in mind when you have people wanting to enroll at any school when you cannot track their history.

            Not all of them are there for the right reasons…

  14. Victoria

    Here’s the link to donate to Ramone, directly. I am also from Flint, and want nothing more than to see him flourish. Please share and share often with as many as you can.

    https://www.gofundme.com/ramonewilliams

  15. Karen Dunnam

    Shared with the news director at WEMU, 89.1 fm. Listen for coverage.
    Surely there’s housing available, perhaps a spare room in a rental property and a landlord who could use a tax write-off.

  16. Leila

    I was also going to set up a GoFundMe upon reading this article. Wasn’t sure if doing another would be necessary or not. I just graduated college and have student loan repayment approaching. I couldn’t imagine having to go through what he is and still remaining strong. Truly inspirational.

    1. Ron French

      Leila, I’m not sure there’s a need for a second account for Ramone, unless it’s for a different cause, such as the homeless student program at Eastern Michigan in general. Both are good causes. He’s an inspirational guy, but it’s also inspirational to see the response today! thank you for reading and caring.

      1. Leila

        Okay, I feel like starting up another account for the entire program would be awesome then. In order to assist with getting more things accessible for those in need. As stated above, there’s a small food pantry accessible– but finding ways to enlarge that or fund ways to ensure books are paid for and the students have proper clothing– basic needs as well as educational needs. I would love to create another account to assist with the program as a whole.

  17. Nick Patterson

    For anyone who can reach this gentlemen (or anyone else who is in a similar situation), there are many resources OWED to him! He is not in this alone! If anyone can get me in contact with this gentlemen, I want to make sure I can do whatever I can to make sure he is in a better place than where he is now. I am currently employed at Michigan Works and we can do SOMETHING for him. We are here to service situations like this!

    Nick Patterson
    Washtenaw County – Michigan Works
    304 Harriet Street
    Ypsilanti, MI 48197
    734-544-6859

    1. Ron French

      Nick, the best way to reach him is through the MAGIC office at Eastern Michigan University, either by talking to Joi Rencher at 734-487-0899, or MAGIC, 301 Pierce Hall, Ypsilanti, MI 48197

  18. Beth

    It would also be significant
    if someone helped him get an internship or a mentor with contacts. This young man clearly has grit and resilience, but I wonder what EMU’s placement record is in his field. Was he counseled well in choice of major?

    1. Justin

      The first word that came to my mind when reading this article was also “grit”. Regardless of the other facts about his current situation, his perseverance and ingenuity are both very impressive as he sets out to graduate with little to no debt. Hopefully EMU is able to help him transform these powerful character traits into an employment opportunity after he graduates. Getting serious about providing all students with stable housing options should also become a higher priority for Eastern Michigan.

  19. Nana

    What is his anticipated graduation date? Please, keep readers up dated on his progress.

    I am wondering about socks, underwear and other things he and the other students may need for class work, I hope the Magic Office is flooded with donations and I hope EMU kicks it up a notch and does more. I have two EMU Degrees and I am adding MAGIG to my budget for a monthly donations my payback. Thank you for making us aware.

  20. Karen Dunnam

    Looks like there’s some flexibility in meal plans at the Student Center. I’ve requested information on contributing to a meal plan. (Campus food court is closed next week though.)

    http://www.emich.edu/dining/diningplans/firstyearstudentd.php

    1. Ron French

      What a great idea! if there’s an EMU equivalent of U-M’s “Blue Bucks” that can be used in the student center restaurants, book store, etc, it would be a huge help. Thanks for checking Karen

      1. Holly

        I would contribute!

    2. Karen Dunnam

      Reply from Dining Services pasted below.

      ~~~~~~

      EMU is requesting that those wishing to donate to assist with emergency needs for students would do so by contacting the EMU Foundation at:
      344 McKenny
      484-1322
      Administrative Fax: 484-1560
      Development/Advancement Services Fax: 481-1737

      http://www.EMUFoundation.org

      EMU has what is called the MAGIC program, which receive donations to their account through EMU’s Foundation.

      Here also is a link to their website: http://www.emich.edu/magic/

  21. Di

    Great article, what a moving story. I’m going to pitch in, thanks to your reporting. And my hat’s off to this young man.

  22. Holly

    Very worried about where he is staying over the holidays with temps dropping. Any ideas for a roof immediately?

  23. Leila

    All, I have created another GoFundMe account in order to assist the MAGIC program as a whole; ensuring the program has the means to give food, money for textbooks, and any other necessities these students may need.

    The link for this program can be found below.
    https://www.gofundme.com/EMUhomelessprogram

    Thank you and Merry Christmas

    1. Ron French

      Thanks Leila

  24. Cassia Pan

    Ron… Great article!!! It broke my heart to think what this young man is going thru!!! I can not stop crying… Still comparing my wants versus my needs when there are so many people out there with Real needs!!! I will help this young man tomorrow morning….I am sharing the information with all my friends!!! My goal… To support him to have a place to leave… Have food… And help him to pay his loan!!! Thanks for writing for the ones who barely have a voice on this crazy world!!!!

    1. David Zeman

      Thank you, Cassia, and everyone who has been so generous in response to Ron’s article on Ramone Williams. The only thing I would underscore from the story is that Ramone is one of six homeless students determined to get their degree at Eastern Michigan University, and so if you want to help the group in general there is a second gofundme account set up for the program that oversees all these students on campus. What a wonderful show of humanity — thank you so much, Bridge readers! https://www.gofundme.com/EMUhomelessprogram

      David Zeman
      Bridge Editor

  25. Crystal P

    If anybody has a way to reach him. Please tell Ramone to contact me. He is welcome to spend the holidays with me and my family. We have more then enough room. I will provide gas money through western union for gas & directions to my home. Email: capadot1977@gmail.com please someone help me get ahold of him.

  26. Tina

    Thanks to Bridge magazine for this reporting so that we can help Ramone and the Magic program at EMU.

  27. Abdul

    I would love to contact with this man. Anyone help plz ?

  28. Claudia

    I was Ramone’s fifth grade teacher. He was always an exceptional student. His grandmother is an amazing woman. Please let him know he is more than welcome to stay with us. He can reach me on Facebook.

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