Home is where you make it
Fired RA spends three months crashing around Capen, Student Union and dorm floors
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 15:03
For three months last spring, Eddie Montesdeoca was homeless.
His friends’ floors were his bed. Alumni Arena’s showers were his bathroom. The Commons was his kitchen. North Campus was his living room.
He proved it’s possible to live on campus without actually living on campus.
After being fired from his position as a resident advisor (RA) in Wilkeson Hall, he was left room-less. Montesdeoca, a junior political science major, spent the rest of the semester without a home in Buffalo. He was forced to adjust his finances, appetite and outlook on life to suit his new situation.
“It put everything into perspective now,” Montesdeoca said. “I mean, I was f**king homeless. Having a crappy schedule or having to wake up for an early class or not getting into a class you wanted – all that means nothing. [My experience] now makes me happy for what I have.”
Montesdeoca found himself sleeping in Capen Hall and the Student Union (SU), eating one meal a day but steadily increasing his GPA.
He admits not doing his job properly and said UB had “every right” to fire him. The university gave him the option to stay in his dorm and pay the full semester’s price of the room or move out. He couldn’t afford it, so he packed his bags.
Montesdeoca had two weeks to move out of his room – plenty of time to pack but not enough to find a place to live, he said. Because of his financial situation, he chose to rotate between several friends’ apartments, sleeping on their couches and floors.
“I was pretty much a man without a house,” Montesdeoca said. “When I woke up, I would have no idea where I was staying that night.”
He didn’t immediately let his friends know what was going on. Instead, he would find new excuses to tell them.
“I never really wanted to explain the story of being homeless to my friends because it’s really embarrassing,” Montesdeoca said. “I would ask a friend if I could crash on the floor because I was really tired and didn’t want to go back to my dorm. They would usually say ‘yes.’”
Eventually, his friends figured it out and sympathized.
Michael Cohen, a junior history and political science major, welcomed Montesdeoca to his dorm in Porter Hall. Cohen has experienced working with the homeless in various soup kitchens and said Montesdeoca’s situation was very similar to what he has seen before.
“If you really look at what ‘homeless’ is, he simply didn’t have a home,” Cohen said. “I really understood how desperate the situation was for him. He was really just looking for a place to stay.”
For the first few weeks, Montesdeoca believed everything was working out for him. He managed to find a friend’s place to stay every night and they welcomed him.
Some of his friends’ roommates didn’t feel the same way. Cohen said Montesdeoca accidentally borrowed Cohen’s roommate’s towel. Immediately after, the roommate insisted Cohen tell Montesdeoca to find another place to stay.
Brandon Gonzalez, a junior English major and Montesdeoca’s fellow Latin American Student Association (LASA) member, had the same problem. Gonzalez allowed Montesdeoca to sleep on his couch, but after a couple weeks, Gonzalez’s roommate said Montesdeoca should pay rent. Although Gonzalez was able to convince his roommate to allow his friend to stay for free, Montesdeoca felt uncomfortable and unwelcome in the apartment.
He turned to the Academic Spine, where he stayed for three weeks.
Some nights, Montesdeoca, the then-treasurer of LASA, would secretly use his swipe card to get into the club’s office on the third floor of SU around 11:55 p.m. Student Association President Travis Nemmer said the policy for club offices follows SU rules; no one can be in SU after midnight. Montesdeoca knew what he was doing was against the rules, but he felt he didn’t have another choice.
He slept on a couch in his office, making sure to keep quiet so the janitors wouldn’t hear him. He remembered one night he was afraid to leave the office to use the bathroom, so he urinated in an empty coke bottle to avoid the possibility of getting caught in the building, he said.
“It was nerve-racking, not having a place to live,” Montesdeoca said. “In the beginning, I tried to be upbeat about it and told myself ‘I am taking all these distractions out of my life and I’ll be good.’ But after a while, it just got really stressful.”