By Raquel Tenorio

Street Health Outreach, or SHO, has been a part of the Isla Vista community for less than 10 years, but the impact it has made in the community has been outstanding. The organization was started by Doctors Without Walls volunteers with a mission to provide basic care to the houseless in Isla Vista and assist other communities in improving the health of those living on the street. Volunteers go out on a weekly basis and distribute supplies to the houseless and underserved in the community and in doing so create lasting bonds that help both the volunteers and the individuals they interact with as well as challenge the stereotypes around working with this population.

Every weekend, SHO volunteers will interact with anywhere from fifteen to twenty individuals. Their focus is to “create a steady source of positive influence for the houseless”. Because Isla VIsta is such a small community, volunteers will usually see the same individuals every week. This provides volunteers with the opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively with homeless individuals and create close relationships with them. Christina Ortland, one of the current SHO presidents told me that this was her favorite part about being a part of SHO.  “I think the communication skills I’ve learned are transferable and beneficial to maintain as I move on to professional school.”

In addition to their weekend volunteering, SHO is also involved with the weekday dinners and weekend breakfasts hosted in Isla Vista for the homeless population. During Deltopia and Halloween, volunteers will help distribute water bottles and flip flops to community members and help guide students home.They consistently partner with other organizations and Doctors Without Walls to advocate for the individuals they encounter, brainstorm ideas, and develop events to benefit the houseless and underserved communities in Santa Barbara.

SHO’s prescense and work in the community has lead to them being awarded the first ever UCSB Philanthropy Award during last winter quarter. In addition to this, they are currently working on creating a case management system for the individuals they encounter in order to better assist them in accessing the resources they need.

If you are interested in getting involved, you can attend any of the meetings SHO hosts throughout the quarter. These meetings occur on Tuesdays at 5pm at the second floor conference room of the SRB. If you are unable to make the meetings you can still sign up to volunteer with them on the weekend via email. You can also “like” SHO’s facebook page in order to be added to the clubs email list and stay up to date on events coming up.

Christina also had advice for those who want to get involved with working with underserved populations in general.  “I would say one of the best things to do is to educate yourself. Attend workshops, lectures, seminars, etc. to gain the knowledge and language of the underserved populations you wish to serve. Then I would actively seek out opportunities to intern, volunteer, work for an organization, company, or program that you find value in.” SHO is an amazing organization that can provide these opportunities and more to those interested in delving into work with the underserved.