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Student Lived Life on
the Streets to Humanize Homeless

December 17, 2009

By Christine Clark

Photo of Sherlin

Shanelle Sherlin, a UC San Diego sophomore, now has a glimpse of what it is like to live life on the streets -- the eye-opening experience helped her learn the power of giving to the homeless. The Muir College student spent 12 hours in the streets of downtown San Diego where she dug through trash cans, collected bottles, begged for money and interviewed other homeless people, all for an art project designed to help people 

“I came up with the idea to pretend to be homeless so that I could learn to relate to them and humanize the indigent,” she said. “Before I thought most homeless people where alcoholics or drug addicts, but I learned that wasn’t the case for many of the people I met. One man I talked to lost everything after he was disabled from a car accident.”

Sherlin’s project was for a UC San Diego “Visual Arts Two: Introduction into Making Two Dimensional Art Practices” class. As part of her project she pretended to be a homeless person and recorded the experience with photos.

Sherlin donned old clothes and said she was surprised at how people ignored her or gave her dirty looks. “It was a very humbling experience,” she said. “Most people just walked by, and if I did try to approach someone, they would tell me they didn’t have time to talk.”

Photo of Sherlin

Sherlin lived on the streets and collected $27 worth of bottles Nov. 28 and the next day went back to the same neighborhood to feed and interview homeless people. “The homeless people I talked to were just so thankful that I talked to them and gave them attention,” she said. “I think, especially during the holidays, people should think about helping those who are less fortunate than us.”

As a precaution for her own safety, Sherlin brought a friend with her who helped her take photos. “I wasn’t afraid, but it was a really eye-opening experience.  Although one man offered to give me his coat, most people were unsympathetic.”

Sherlin is a communications major and foundation chair of the Sigma Kappa sorority, which is dedicated to providing women with lifelong opportunities and support for social, intellectual and spiritual development.

Through her sorority, Sherlin has been involved in several philanthropic and community service activities. She has helped organize beach clean ups and volunteer events at elderly centers. “Giving back to my community is important to me,” she said. “I plan to organize an event with my sorority where we can go back to the streets of downtown to help feed the homeless and interview them.”

UC San Diego has more than 400 student organizations and 68 of them are service-based. These include UCSD Cares, Alternative Breaks and the Associated Students Volunteer Connection, which worked with staff to organize this year’s annual holiday toy drive. 

Media Contact: Christine Clark, 858-534-7618 or ceclark@ucsd.edu


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