STEPping UPP to Serve


Many people have the illusion that homelessness is a chosen lifestyle and would rather walk by and pretend not to see someone standing on the street, but would rather ignore them completely. This is a problem everyone in America suffers from, homeless or not, but Carmen Monteon, director of STEP UPP (formerly Alternative Spring Break), has hope. She has experienced a change in the way her volunteers view homelessness. During this year’s annual Spring trip, Carmen witnessed volunteers transform in how they talked about homelessness among each other, and witnessed them become more passionate about being involved in efforts to understand and identify with transitional and homeless individuals. Carmen was pleased to hear Lorena Boswell, the Coordinator at the YES House, exclaim that, “This year’s volunteers were the first group that did not seem to have an issue interacting with the homeless of Sacramento”. This easy transition was most likely due to prior workshops, facilitated by directors Carmen Monteon and Irene Gonzalez, that went into depth about communication and what volunteers could expect during their trip.

Volunteers discussed what they learned from workshops and guest speakers on their trip, and how they could implement these new strategies at facilities in Arcata and Eureka that serve the homeless community. “I saw volunteers transform in their awareness and readiness to help out,” Carmen said, “And they realized how easy it is to get into the situation these people are in”. Overall, this year’s Spring Break trip is one that altered perspectives and helped break down barriers to facilitate improvements in community equality, contact and understanding.