College instructor left homeless

James Hartley

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SJCC faculty member down but not out

Hard times not only affects students in today’s slow economy. Anyone can fall on hard times but resilience and optimisum can even out the playing field.

Lara Cray, a 45 year old part-time math instructor at San Jose City Community College, moved out of her home in the East Bay this past summer due to a rent increase, and now is homeless.

Professor Lara Cray poses for the City College Times in Multi-Disciplinary building courtyard.

[/media-credit] Professor Lara Cray poses for the City College Times in Multi-Disciplinary building courtyard.

A verbal lease agreement was broken in June when two of the four tenants moved with no notice. This increased Cray’s financial responsibilities, forcing her to find more affordable housing.

The move came after a bad turn of events.

Cycling and public transportation helped her commute back and forth from San Jose to Newark.

This past May, while commuting she strained her back which prevented her from doing side work, thus decreasing income considerably.

According to Cray, without the extra money, she had to live off savings from the previous school year throughout the summer.

During Cray’s move, personal items like her identity were stolen.

By the time she reported the crime, her accounts had been emptied out which resulted in an overdraft and forced her to file for identity theft.

Even though the string of negative events had Cray wonder where she was going to sleep next, students could catch her in the tutoring center with a smile on her face offering help in math.

Due to Crays misfortune, over the summer she was under-prepared to teach elementary math, which resulted her passing the job to a better prepared instructor.

“I’d like to see more community in the community college,” Cray said. “I’ve worked in a lot of under privileged communities trying to prepare our unprepared students.”

In the mist of all the chaos, she does her part to help the community at the college.

Cray said she has had a large amount of emotional stress but SJCC has been very supportive during her current situation.

Although she is not eligible for all of the employment benefits as a part-time instructor, fellow community members have given her referrals and money, as well as food.

Marilyn Crawford, who runs the schools Cal-works office, and Blake Balajadia, head of student affairs, want to remind students that SJCC facilities offer help to its community members who fall on hardships.

“One of the most difficult things to deal with is being homeless,” Balajadia said. “By being a part of City College you’ll receive more than just academic education. There are resources to help fill in the blanks. We do our best to listen to what the campus needs.”

Some of the resources SJCC offers are homeless referrals, employment assistance programs, family therapy, health center services and child care. Cray has recently been able to acquire a bed space at a homeless shelter in San Jose.

“It’s hard for some people to ask for help.” Cray said. “Not everybody grew up in a culture where asking for help is acceptable, but if you don’t give up you’ll find there are people to give a hand.”