Spotlight: BHC Scholars Start Student Organization Dedicated to Helping the Homeless
Victoria Orindas and Naim Shaqqou, BHC Scholars and president and vice president of SALT Outreach respectively, and other UCF students have started their own student organization chapter, SALT Outreach at UCF, to assist Orlando’s homeless population by providing free clinical and health-related services. SALT (Service and Love Together) Outreach Inc. was established in 2011, and aims to meet the needs of the community.
What does SALT Outreach do as an organization itself? Is there anything different that SALT Outreach at UCF does in comparison to the national organization?
In partnership with SALT Outreach Inc., SALT Outreach at UCF strives to provide respect and dignity to Orlando's homeless population. We aim to do that by offering free showers via a mobile shower trailer as well as offering fresh, clean clothing from a mobile clothing trailer. Additionally, we offer free haircut services, free toiletries, health check-ups, STD testing, and vaccinations.
SALT Outreach at UCF aims to get more students involved with the parent organization and hopes to end homelessness one person at a time. With more projects being started, such as the laundry trailer that will be launched soon, the demand for volunteers will increase. SALT Outreach at UCF hopes to be able to sustain this increased need for volunteers with the help of UCF students.
What led to you wanting to create a branch of this organization at UCF?
Throughout summer, a few of the officers and I volunteered with SALT Outreach. In addition to the services they are providing, all the staff is trained on how to properly communicate with our homeless friends and make them feel heard and trusted. Many of the individuals we were assisting have lost hope due to experiencing homelessness for years. Through gaining their trust, we can help them find shelters and housing. We can find ways to accommodate their situation and help them get a job or ameliorate their day-to-day life.
Since we personally witnessed how impactful the staff’s actions were on the homeless community, we made it our mission to get more volunteers involved. Knowing how eager UCF Knights are, we decided to start the chapter, SALT Outreach at UCF, to create more opportunities for students to give back to our community during the pandemic, all the while following all of the safety and social distancing guidelines.
Why was this important to you?
With the onset of the pandemic, the majority of non-profit organizations halted their activity. A few UCF students and I were aware that the homeless population will be one of the most affected demographic groups. Since they are constantly exposed to the virus, they have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
To offset those effects that were caused by the pandemic, we took the opportunity to start the chapter, SALT Outreach at UCF. Since the parent organization is one of the few non-profit organizations that continued to operate during the pandemic, it was important to us to help them serve more individuals to compensate for the non-profits that ceased their operations.
In addition to that, we are helping the homeless population stay safe during the pandemic by distributing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, alongside the services that we typically provide.
Not many organizations give the chance for the volunteers to connect with the homeless people on a personal level, and that is a privilege that we will never take for-granted. Witnessing homeless people improve their lives is a fulfilling experience and is one of the main reasons that this is important to us.
How can other BHC Scholars get involved?
We currently have a few leadership positions available. For further information, students should check out our social media platforms.
Regarding volunteering opportunities, we have four events per week. We have events available every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. All of the events are posted on our KnightConnect page as well as our Instagram/Linkedin page.