“Soup and Substance” were served for lunch as part of Beyond Shelter’s Homeless Awareness Week Tuesday where about a dozen students gathered for a meal – consisting of soup and bread – and watched a short documentary on homelessness in San Luis Obispo.
“Homeless people are by and large not seen,” Eric Parkinson said, “people don’t want to see them.”
Parkinson is president of VeAhavta, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing assistance for people in need, and created the film “Will We See Them?,” which focused on local statistics of homelessness in San Luis Obispo.
Parkinson said he made the documentary because people need to see how homeless people are living.
“You go to a shelter and you wouldn’t find a bunch of drunks or drug addicts, you would find a soul,” Parkinson said.
The San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services conducted a survey on Oct. 25, 2005 and concluded that there are about 2,500 homeless people in the county with 42 percent, or 1,015, being women and girls. Only 7 percent of the homeless were staying in shelters and that is because the shelters were at maximum capacity.
“Our first goal is to raise awareness,” Parkinson said. “It’s not about the money, it’s about making people feel like they are a human being.”
Later that night at Backstage Pizza, Beyond Shelter hosted Slam Poetry for students followed by a sleep-out in the University Union to recognize homelessness.
“We wanted to give students an experience of what it would be like to be homeless in San Luis Obispo,” said Suzy Becker, a mathematics senior and member of Student Community Services.
She said that Student Community Services added a twist to the sleep-out this year by bringing cardboard boxes for students to attempt to create a shelter with.
“We are attempting to build something you have to sleep on, and it isn’t going good so far,” Becker said.
Matt Kelly, a 50-year-old homeless man who lives on the streets of San Luis Obispo, commented that he had brought his house with him as he began to set up his tent for the night.
Kelly has been living in San Luis Obispo for two years and after meeting Janice Stone, a homeless shelter organizer, Kelly has since become clean and sober and is looking forward to a better life.
“I’ve been clean for four months and this is the first time in my life I’m really, truly happy. I’m content,” Kelly said.
As for the situation of being homeless in San Luis Obispo, he said situations needed to improve and “we all need to be treated better.”
Other events scheduled for the week include a resource fair at the San Luis Obispo library from 1 to 4 p.m. today in addition to the movie “Out in the Cold,” which focuses on the life of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth living on the streets. The movie will be shown at Phillips Hall at 7 p.m. On Thursday, Beyond Shelter will have a booth at the Farmers’ Market and there will be a homeless art display in the Epicenter from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday will feature the main event, the Walk to Fight Homelessness, at Santa Rosa Park at 10 a.m.