Hello everyone! My name is Erika Wadsworth and I am a senior Philosophy major at UCSB with a minor in Writing for Civic Engagement. I am also one of the leaders of Street Health Outreach, a student organization at UCSB that seeks to build and sustain relationships with the houseless community of Isla Vista.
The central aim of my project is to work directly with the local houseless community to develop a booklet that incorporates their experiences and stories as well as provides a philosophical exploration of whether we as a community have a moral responsibility towards people who are experiencing homelessness. Through this project, I hope to encourage people to question their assumptions about homelessness, both on the level of breaking stereotypes about who is homeless and why, and on the level of examining their personal assumptions about what the houseless community deserves and how they should be treated by our society.
At first glance, it might not seem like the academic discipline of philosophy and humanitarian issues such as homelessness have much in common, and, on one level, they really don’t. On another level, however, I believe that they are intimately and necessarily connected. After all, if we don’t have a clear understanding of what our moral responsibility is to the homeless population and what their rights are, then how can we act on that responsibility to protect those rights?
Both as someone who loves philosophy and as someone who is interested in working with underserved populations in the future, I am excited about this unique opportunity to bridge the divide between the theory of philosophical speculation and the practice of meeting people where they are. If nothing else, I hope that my project will demonstrate how important it is to acknowledge the humanity of all of the members of our community. As a friend of mine on the streets once said, speaking about his time at University, “we’re all the same, just not at the same time.”