Campus organizations hosted a club fair on Bruin Plaza to raise awareness of homelessness and kick off the fifth annual Homelessness Awareness Week on Monday.
The Mobile Clinic Project, Swipe Out Hunger, Hunger Project, Bruin Shelter and CalFresh Initiative hosted the Homelessness Awareness Fair to promote dialogue about the overarching issue of homelessness in the greater Los Angeles area and inform students about the different organizations’ goals.
The event was part of Homelessness Awareness Week, which aims to rally community support for and engagement with the homeless population, said Kaylie Heyer, a fourth-year psychology student and a member of the Mobile Clinic Project internal relations team.
“A lot of times people have a very big but very misguided heart in that they don’t know how they can help,” Heyer said. “I think it’s important that we are giving people who care about this issue or people who don’t know a lot about it an avenue or a path for them to help.”
Heyer said the Mobile Clinic Project works with medical students from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and graduate students from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health to provide medical, social and legal services to the local homeless population in West Hollywood every Wednesday.
Heyer said before joining MCP, she would sometimes hear offensive comments about the homeless population, which she did not know how to address in a respectful manner.
“When my friends would say things like ‘I’m dressed like a hobo.’ When they would pick something up from the trash and say ‘I feel like a rat,’” Heyer said. “I would hear these comments being made and it wouldn’t press me.”
After joining MCP, Heyer said she learned how to address these comments more mindfully and initiate conversations about homelessness.
Heyer added there is a common stereotype that people who are affected by homelessness all come from the same background.
“Homelessness does not have one face or one struggle or one story,” Heyer said. “It can affect any of us.”
Andrew Afyouni, a fourth-year neuroscience student and co-chair of the MCP database committee, said last year MCP was able to help a struggling individual, who later joined another organization that provided services to the homeless population in order to give back.
Other organizations at the fair aimed to address the lack of access to basic needs and resources that many UCLA students face. For example, Swipe Out Hunger aims to mitigate food insecurity for students, said Kelsey Holmes, a third-year political science student and director for Swipe Out Hunger’s external programming.
Holmes added that some students do not have consistent access to healthy and nutritious food.
“Forty-two percent of UC students have recorded at one point to have experienced food insecurity,” Holmes said.
To address food insecurity within UCLA, Swipe Out Hunger offers various programs that students can attend to receive food resources without judgment, Holmes said. For example, Bruin Dine, a collaborative project between Swipe Out Hunger, Bruin Shelter and Hunger Project, gathers and redistributes leftover food from De Neve dining hall to students looking for a free warm meal every Thursday night, Holmes said.
She added the leftover food is always still in good condition and would have been thrown out at the end of the dining period.
The purpose of a club fair is to allow multiple organizations with the same cause to collaborate and build off each other’s successes, Afyouni said.
“A group is stronger than the sum of its parts,” he added.
Organizations can promote discussion about homelessness more effectively and create a bigger impact if they advocate for their causes together, Afyouni said.
“Every single person has the right to be treated as a human being,” Afyouni said. “Every organization here embodies that statement.”
Clara Nguyen, MCP outreach chair and a third-year Asian American studies and human biology and society student, said Homelessness Awareness Week will end Friday with a final recap of the week and an opportunity for students to call local policymakers about issues relating to homelessness.