Exploring the company we keep at UCI and beyond

Roller derby girls. God Without Religion. Harry Potter enthusiasts (fanatics?). These are a small sampling of the groups and organizations that have formed at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and around Orange County. Members share a devotion to their cause and a desire to pursue it in collaboration with others, which are the subjects we examine in this blog.

Friday, March 5, 2010


By Hila Assifi

Time: 5pm. Place: UCI’s Humanities Hall room 105. Event: General S.H.O.U.T. meeting.

Yet again the S.H.O.U.T members collectively create a circle with the desks, having an open view of everyone while avoiding facing their backs to one another. “The shirts are here!” squealed Eliz Wang, Head of Publicity for S.H.O.U.T. Her arms raised high above her head, swaying her long black hair in front of her, a smile from ear to ear. The members quickly submerge into chatter amongst themselves as the brand new team shirts are dispersed to those who have paid the four-dollar fee. Vibrantly orange and unavoidable, the shirts gloriously hold a picture of their logo cloned into a giant colony on the back of the shirt; anteaters with an “O” shaped mouth indicating the S.H.O.U.T face. In bold, white letters flaunt the meaning within the abbreviation displayed on the lower back of the shirt underneath the logo “Students For Homeless Outreach United Together”. The shirt designing was just one event for their meeting of the day. Behind Sarah Xie Co-President and Eliz, were mountains of grocery bags filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and more hygienic necessities ready to be created into their hygiene bags to pass out at Venice Beach for the homeless who gathered there.

At the University of California, Irvine, there are over 4,000 clubs and organizations based on students’ interests or beliefs. S.H.O.U.T is a group based on helping spread awareness of homelessness in the Orange County area, a county usually stereotyped as the rich man’s county. According to an article by Today@UCI, “an estimated 456,000 people are at risk of going hungry each month and 35,000 people, including 6,000 children, will be homeless” in Orange County. As the economy continues to fail and jobs begin to lack open positions, people find themselves trapped with financial issues; the hardship of the economy causes people to become destitute and the people who still have jobs, cut back on their giving to the already homeless. S.H.O.U.T members, however, try to encourage the idea of giving back to those who are need.

Back at the meeting while members excitedly chattered away, second Co-President Dasha Claussen explains, “Its amazing… not amazing in a good way, it’s just crazy to see so many homeless people but it’s nice to help. You just realize that it’s here that it is happening in Orange County” The fourth year PSB and European Studies double major pulls her dark ebony hair to reveal a few strands of blue and green. Her eyes concentrated on her friends who have followed along within the experience of making lives of homeless people a little more bearable. She and Sarah have major responsibilities for the club. With a gentle smile and a confident posture, Sarah explained their duties as president, “We do a lot of leading of the meetings, like the vision, what we want to focus on…just to make sure people are on top of things and are doing their jobs”. Laughter and chatter echo throughout the room as the 12 members one by one step up to grab a color of puffy paint to distinguish their personalities on their shirts. Some of the orange shirts pleasantly held small décor like white hearts around their name, others black squiggles and even one held a badge with, “Hello My Name Is…” neatly on the left breast of the t-shirt. These shirts would forever identify themselves as official S.H.O.U.T members, proudly wearing their occupation in the color of a construction worker’s vest, catching people’s eyes.

Pertaining to homeless people on the street in Irvine, Dasha explains, “If cops see them they pick them up and take them to Santa Ana. Santa Ana is the 3rd largest city for holding homeless people”. Her voice melted into compassion as she finished her sentence, crossing her arms and keeping her mind busy as she dumped the plastic bags containing hygienic items. This organization is known widely during every Fall Quarter because of their involvement with “Homelessness Awareness week” every week 8 spreading the awareness of the growing number of homelessness in Irvine, Costa Mesa and especially Santa Ana. During this awareness week, S.H.O.U.T holds a sleep-out where people come together and learn to empathize with the living customs of someone who does not have a nice place to sleep. After snacks are eaten and speakers from various homeless shelters for kids and adults preach about the problems in the O.C. volunteers huddle near the flagpoles to sleep. “We bring sleeping bags and we sleep on the ground. It’s cold and uncomfortable but it’s nowhere close to how homeless people feel. Its cold…it’s freezing! At least we’re only there for one night but take that day and multiply it by 100 and that’s how they feel”. According the The New University Article, last Sleep-out, “30 people made their beds on the cold concrete by the flagpoles at UC Irvine. The sleep-out included guest speakers who were formerly homeless, musical performances, and poetry by the group Uncultivated Rabbits.” Chris Guzman, a motivational speaker and ex-homeless, inspired students, “that even though we may be faced with adversity in life, we can still come out on top”. Throughout the evening the message of destroying the prejudice against homeless people was proudly portrayed, as sayings such as, “they are people who just happened to encounter some unfortunate circumstances” widely spread throughout the group. Wearing whatever clothes on their backs for that day, laying in a sleeping bag upon cardboard, the people submerge into sacrificing their warm beds for one night in order to feel the icy coldness of nature during the sleeping of the sun as the homeless do every night. In the morning, they awoke to back aches, headaches, grogginess, and a garbage bag full of bagels for breakfast.

Aside from Awareness Week, S.H.O.U.T members keep active every weekend by volunteering at Costa Mesa soup kitchen, Someone Cares or passing out breakfast/hygiene bags at Venice Beach. Also available to the homeless besides Someone Cares and the aid of S.H.O.U.T are places such as Boys Hope Girls Hope in Costa Mesa, Orange County Rescue Mission in Santa Ana, and the Housing Program in Buena Park. The website magicyellow.com claims, “These emergency facilities are great places for people to go in a time of need so that they can find some kind of relief. There are many kinds of shelters that assist both people and animals. While one shelter may be for battered women who have suffered from domestic violence and abuse, another one might be more family-oriented and suited for victims of a tornado or hurricane disaster…homeless shelters provide a place for people to stay and sleep until they are able to return home”. There are usually problems with houses because with the number of homeless growing, the number of vacancy in these homes/shelters decreases and have people back out on the street again because there is no room left. The major con to all soup kitchens/homes/shelters is the availability of food and room, once it’s filled, it’s filled until somebody leaves.

Soup kitchens are very punctual as well. By 7:30 am if S.H.O.U.T members are not there other volunteer committees take their place. Basically a first come first serve basis; the S.H.O.U.Ters have experienced running late a few times only to be told their place was taken by a different volunteer group. Someone Cares soup kitchen states on their website, "Our mission is simple: To feed a daily nutritional meal to the homeless, the unemployed, the working poor, the mentally challenged, the physically challenged, the senior citizens and most important of all – the children. We provide this meal to our guests in a friendly, non-threatening atmosphere. Our belief is that no one should go to bed hungry, on the street or otherwise. The soup kitchen provides a nutritional and tasteful meal to the less fortunate in our community. A meal that we would be proud to serve our family at home. A well-balanced meal made fresh daily consisting of vegetable soup, lettuce and fruit salads, hearty and filling side dishes, breads and muffins, desert, milk and water." By 7 am S.H.O.U.T volunteers meet at the flagpoles and drive over to Someone Cares to serve breakfast foods. “I know Trader Joes donates a lot of food and some of the food is from the Orange County food bank” claimed former president Bianca Schizniak , now just a devoted member. Two hours is used for preparation, setting up tables, plates and food, however the members do not create the food, they only serve. The set up is very cafeteria-like, the girls say, people come in at 9am and walk to the food counter one by one to be served. There is a donation table set up where the people who came to eat could take food with them; lots of salad items, bread and cookies. “Nobody took the bread though, cuz it was almost expired…it was sad because there was A LOT of bread” claimed Bianca. “Different kinds of groups came in, individual adults, families, teenagers and kids…but not like little kids” added Lani Isozaki Vice President of External Affairs, “They all look like regular people, they obviously have access to showers or something because they look pretty clean, not all of them but most of them”. Set up as a vintage sixties cafe, old tables set up in rows and dull “abused” colors with the portrait of the founder nailed to the wall, the place is set up as an eat-only place two times bigger than a UCI classroom, “It looks small cuz there are a lot of stuff in it” said Lani with a laugh. However dull, it exudes a comfortable energy, letting the homeless who temporarily settle, enjoy their meal of eggs, pancakes, and sausage under a roof in a four-wall room. Upon every table held a small vase of rosemary to clean the smell of the air because of the odor of some of the unprivileged people “The people can go up as many times as they want” avoiding the Oliver Twist imagery of wanting some more, Someone Cares hopes to give as much as they possibly can to the hungry who enter and hope they leave as full as possible. Engaging in conversation, the members try to make the homeless feel even more comfortable to be surrounded by a group of big-hearted people as the line slowly moves along gaining one serving at a time. At roughly 1pm, Lani says, the crew cleans up and heads home.

Back at the meeting, the smell of fresh squeezed puffy paint accumulated throughout the room. The door was then propped open by Dasha as the shirts were left to dry upon the now empty desks. Members separated in two lines on opposite sides of the table holding the items for creating the hygiene kits, “Is this the boy side?” somebody shouted as they realized they were in the wrong line. Usually purchased from the 99-cent story or various hotels such as The Double Tree Hotel bags of various items are unloaded upon the table. “One side is girls only and the other side is for guys!” Directed Sarah. Almost instantly, the group hurried, grabbing at random items. The girl bag consisted of a pair of socks, toothbrush, cup, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, hair shampoo and conditioner, pads, and toilet paper. The male bag also included these items excluding the pads. The shampoos, conditioners and soaps were not the big packages but the sample, travel size L’Oreal items found in a cheap store or in some cupboard of a hotel ready to be given away. As the hour of the meeting progressed, the piles of the hygiene bags continued to raise, a few tumbling upon each other. The items were almost completely cleared off from the table, members giggling as they got in each other’s way having a bag for the boy’s and standing on the girl’s side. At 6pm the meeting had come to a close as they grabbed as many bags as they could heave them away into Dasha’s car. The coming Sunday at 9am these bags would be delivered to those in need, lying on the grounds of Venice Beach. Though some do not wish to receive assistance and refuse the bags, S.H.O.U.Ters continue to pass out what they have, with whatever time they have left after hitting the books and engaging in activities of various other clubs they are involved in. Driven by compassion and striving to make a difference the members grow as an organization and continue to take part in bigger activities to show they’re aware of the growing number of homeless in the O.C. and are trying to fight against it.

Reporting Notes

-Interview with Dasha Claussen co-president of S.H.O.U.T


-Interview with 4 members of S.H.O.U.T (Dasha, Sarah, Bianca, Lani)

-1 Hour observation of club meetings on 2 different occarssions (Reg. discussion/ hygiene kits)

-Article from New U

-Article from Today@UCI

-Shelter info from Magicyellow.com

No comments:

Post a Comment