On Thursday, Nov. 18, Students for Homeless Outreach United Together (SHOUT) held their annual sleep-out event at the flagpoles to foster awareness of homelessness in Orange County.
In front of the podium, about 30 cut-up cardboard boxes lay spread on the concrete to create a realistic sleep-out experience. Students listened to speakers and performers, assembled breakfast bags and hygiene kits to distribute to homeless and ultimately spent the night in sleeping bags in 59 degree weather.
The event coincided with Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, and aimed to spread knowledge about homelessness in the Orange County community. Although there are over 35,000 homeless people in Orange County, no homeless shelter currently exist in Irvine.
About 40 student attendees made about 100 hygiene kits with items such as toothpaste, toothbrush, soap and toilet paper, and about 200 breakfast bags with healthy nonperishable items as applesauce, fruit leathers and granola bars. The club will distribute these bags directly to homeless people in Venice Beach as a service project.
Two formerly homeless people came to speak at the event, relaying their personal experiences of what drove them to homelessness, their struggles with poverty and their road to recovery. Speakers stressed that homelessness can be a product of both circumstances and life decisions, and urged audience members not to judge homeless people they encounter.
Additionally, Donna Naccachian from OC Rescue Mission spoke on her experience in working to heal and rehabilitate people at the privately funded homeless shelter in Tustin. “Over the last 20 years we’re seeing a whole new face to the homeless: working people who lost their jobs,” said Naccachian.
Performers included UCI spoken-word group Uncultivated Rabbits, singer Isabel Wang and singer Blake Soderstrom accompanying herself on the ukulele.
SHOUT co-president Cristóbal Marín commented on reduced audience attendance: “I really think the premiere of Harry Potter took away from our turn-out. It’s weird how people are apathetic about our own business — fees are hiked quarterly and people still don’t take advantage of our resources on campus.”
During Thanksgiving week, some SHOUT members will be working at a soup kitchen to help serve dinner.
“It’s no coincidence that this event is before Thanksgiving,” Marín said.
The club hopes the event will encourage attendees to think about others in the community and feel grateful for their own resources during the holidays.
In addition to the sleep-out, SHOUT also holds various service projects and events throughout the year. The club visits Venice Beach to pass out hygiene and food kits about three times a quarter, and organizes soup kitchen volunteer days about two times a quarter.