By | Ian Benjamin Finnegan Thompson
Jeremy Meed’s strength is tested every time he hauls himself up into his truck from his wheelchair. Meed lifts his whole body weight up into the passenger seat of his truck every night to sleep in his vehicle. His feet swell up from sleeping upright. All his personal belongings lie in the passenger seat and the cab of the truck. Since the beginning of summer, Meed’s truck has been his home.
“Using the bathroom, not having a comfortable place to sleep and not being able to cook,” are some of the hardest parts of living in his truck said Meed.
When Meed first moved out to Humboldt from Ohio he lived on campus at the College Creek apartments. Unfortunately, this semester his financial aid was only enough to cover his tuition.
Meed is part of possibly up to 15% of HSU students who are homeless according to a survey done by Chant’e Catt of the HSU Homeless Students Advocate Alliance in 2016. Meed is also physically disabled making it even more difficult to find housing in an area with an already severe housing shortage.
At the age of 16 Meed ran away from home with his girlfriend from South Carolina in his Subaru. Somewhere on the outskirts of Atlanta Meed fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car. The next thing Meed remembers is waking up in a hospital.
“I woke up with a tube in my chest and I couldn’t feel my legs,” said Meed.
Since then Meed has been paralyzed from the chest down.
Meed used to sleep in his truck on campus until University Police Department told him it was illegal to do so. Now Meed finds places away from people’s homes to park his truck and sleep. He doesn’t feel safe staying at the homeless shelter in Eureka and said he wouldn’t feel safe parking near the shelter either.
Meed is continuing to look for housing but it’s difficult for a low income paraplegic to find housing in a county that the Humboldt County Grand Jury in 2015 said has a “critical lack of affordable housing”.
There is the Humboldt County housing section 8 voucher waitlist Meed was hoping to get onto which helps low income non elderly disabled residents with rent but the voucher waitlist has been closed now in Humboldt County for over two years.
According to Affordable Housing Online there are around 1,500 affordable low income apartments available in Humboldt County. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 20% of Humboldt County residents are living in poverty. That’s 20,000 people.
Many of the low income apartments available are upstairs making them inaccessible to Meed. Others don’t have the proper bathroom door width for a wheelchair to fit into.
Now in his second year as a music major, Meed spends his days practicing his guitar at the music department. He picked up his love for guitar while living in Ohio with his family around seven years ago.
Meed also works at the Humboldt State University Testing Center which helps students registered with the Student Disabilities Resources Center take tests and also provides a space for make up exams.
“I try to stay out of my truck as much as possible,” said Meed.
Meed said that Humboldt State University complies to ADA standards but doesn’t do much more than that.
Getting around campus is another test of strength for Meed.
“The hills are the hardest part,” said Meed.
Meed’s wheelchair is a manual chair, meaning it’s push powered, not electric.
“An new electric wheelchair costs about $5,000.” said Meed. “Some insurance companies will help pay the cost, but they will only help replace the chair every five years,” said Meed.
In spite of the adversity Meed goes through on a daily basis getting around the aptly nicknamed hills and stairs university in a wheelchair and living in his truck, Meed is determined to continue his education and graduate within the next three years. The resilience he displays is honorable.
“I’m a unique situation,” said Meed.
In an area like Humboldt with an obvious shortage of low income housing, it’s necessary that situations like Meed’s be addressed so others like him can get the support they need to live in Humboldt and continue their education.