PACS Instructor Experiences What It’s Like to be Homeless


PACS Instructor Experiences What It’s Like to be Homeless

It’s not uncommon for teachers to get to know their students and their unique circumstances. Even at the college level, many instructors put in extra effort to learn about their students and their lives outside of the classroom.

Jerry Griffin, an adjunct instructor with the PACS Criminal Justice program, recently took the concept to the extreme and earned a lot of media coverage as a result.

To better understand many of his students, Griffin traded his suit and tie for old clothes and left his phone and cash behind for three nights and four days while pretending to be homeless. The first night was spent on the hard concrete near 11th and Lewis, while he opted for a shelter the following two nights.

Griffin, who began serving on the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education last year, spent four days in March on the streets of Tulsa experiencing what it was like to live without a home. Griffin felt compelled to go undercover to learn what it’s like to be homeless after learning that about 500 students in his district live without consistent housing.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness reports that approximately 26,000 students in Oklahoma experience homelessness during a school year and 1,200 have no stable place to stay.

To better understand many of his students, Griffin traded his suit and tie for old clothes and left his phone and cash behind for three nights and four days while pretending to be homeless. The first night was spent on the hard concrete near 11th and Lewis, while he opted for a shelter the following two nights.

“I learned the difference between sympathy and empathy,” Griffin shared with Tulsa’s Channel 2 News.

Griffin shared his experience with other local media outlets and the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education.

He said he was cold, hungry and even suffered frostbite on his fingers. Living in those conditions while trying to complete schoolwork and maintain good grades, much less graduate, seemed nearly impossible, he said.

Griffin said after walking in these students’ shoes, he hopes the district can create a program that encourages community organizations to adopt homeless students and their families.

Griffin teaches a PACS graduate-level conflict resolution course in the Criminal Justice program’s Restorative Justice track. He served in the United States Marine Corps and is a former Tulsa police officer. He states in his bio on the TPS Board of Education website that his philosophy of education centers around learning as a lifelong process, and that learning at all ages must be an active process and become a value of the learner. He believes learners must have the basic foundational skills taught in an environment of critical thinking before moving on to higher-order learning.

New coverage of Griffin’s weekend experience of homelessness can be found at the following links:

Do you know of a PACS instructor who goes out of their way to connect with students? Let us know by sending an email to PACSsocial@ou.edu.

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.