If you live in Isla Vista you are undoubtedly familiar with the large presence of the homeless population. We bike by them everyday, yet few of us take the time to truly get to know their stories. Many of the homeless in Santa Barbara suffer from mental illness, have tragically lost loved ones and a handful are even students currently enrolled and attending UCSB or SBCC. Most have searched for help, yet our systems have repeatedly failed them.

We refer to those lacking shelter as homeless, but perhaps the correct description would be houseless. A house is where we find refuge from the elements; a place to hang our coats. A home is where we find our family. Family is not defined by the blood that runs through our veins so much as it is by a state of love and trust. While those living on the streets of Santa Barbara may lack physical shelter, in no way do they lack these essentials of family so crucial to a home and life itself.

As we have all recently been reminded by the events in Japan, losing a house is only one natural disaster away. No one is too good or too important to be immune to loss.

While all are quite aware that drugs and addiction can lead to the loss of a house, it tends to be forgotten that mental illness, chronic disease and trauma are equally, if not more, responsible. Ignorance is the main cause of hate and we as students have the responsibility to educate ourselves and be the change. Instead of turning the other way, it is time we give our neighbors a voice.

In an effort to raise awareness to the growing homeless population, Street Health Outreach will be holding its second annual Homeless Awareness Weekend. HAW will be held in the theater of the MultiCultural Center from May 20 through May 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. each night. The event will feature a guest speaker panel, including members of the homeless community, discussing the myth of “Build and they will come.” Each night will include a movie screening of one of three documentaries: “Operation Safety Net,” “Homelessness in America” and “Dark Days.”

Street Health Outreach is a student run campus organization devoted to providing basic care for the homeless population in Santa Barbara while assisting other organizations in their efforts to offer medical attention. It is our goal to build a friendship and provide moral support for our friends without houses in order to improve the health of our community as a whole. For more info on SHO or HAW, visit our Facebook event or email streethealthoutreach@gmail.com

Adriana Santana is a third-year biology major and Jessielee Coley is a fourth-year biology major.