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The Faces of Homelessness conference

Ruby Cerino
Dr. Moya and participants prepare for the second conference of the State of the Homelessness Conference Series

The Faces of Homelessness is the second conference of the State of the Homelessness Conference Series and will be held on Feb. 27, at 1 p.m. at the College of Health Sciences Building, room 217. The series is a collaboration between the College of Health Sciences and the social work department at UTEP and will be bilingual.

The goal of the conference is to offer a face to the problem of homelessness in our community with the assistance of participants who have personally been affected or influenced by homelessness.

During the conference, Eva Moya, assistant professor of social work, said participants will be able to humanize the victims in order to come together as a community to solve the problems and discrimination carried out against the homeless, without prejudice.

“This is the second of a trilogy of conferences that we have strategically organized at the university in order to address the issue of homelessness,” Moya said.

“We have already presented the problem to the community, with this upcoming conference we aim to humanize the circumstances, in order to then integrate our thoughts and ideas to build a better system to aid our community.”

Five of Moya’s graduate students signed up as participants of the project. Three of them have experienced homelessness while studying at UTEP.

“For eight to 10 weeks we gathered during Saturdays, we met with the residents of the Opportunity Center with the intention to hear their stories,” Moya said.

“We struggled to get willing participants to join the program, for we were basically photographing and recording their daily lives in order to successfully compose a Photovoice gallery.”

Moya said the participants know their stories are going to be exposed to the public. Among the participants were adults of, varied backgrounds, races and ages.

The Opportunity Center consists of 15 shelters, including partnership clinics and various integration programs for the homeless.

Ray Tullius, executive director of the Opportunity Center, said that the objective of the center is to do a much better job to assist the homeless, for homelessness cannot be merely eliminated.

The shelters all have their own designations, focused on entire families, struggling single mothers, mental health care patients and discarded adolescents, etc.

The Voices and Images Photovoice project will be presented at 2 p.m. during the conference. It will demonstrate a realistic perspective on the living conditions of the homeless in El Paso

Courtney Adcox, social work graduate student, said
their goal is not to change the opinion and perspective of those attending the conference, but to get people talking about an issue that isconstantly ignored.

“The more eyes that see the issues that we will present, the more people we have thinking about alternatives, contributing to the solutions of the problem,” Adcox said. “We want to come together and figure out how to establish methods of prevention and, ultimately eliminate the risks of homelessness.”

The Photovoice project will open with the screening of a documentary on the project and will demonstrate a powerful realistic perspective on the living conditions of the homeless. The audience will then be able to engage in a discussion.

Loweree Schmitz, senior psychology major, and a participant on the Photovoice project, said she has been involved with the homeless community for numerous years.

“There truly is not have a distinguishing feature that the homeless share in common,” Schmitz said. “The demographic composition of those who fall into this struggle varies–every single individual who is homeless is just that, an individual.”

Schmitz said most people in the community take the homeless for granted and that it’s time for the dehumanization to stop.

The audience will consist of professionals from El Paso and advocates for the homeless. Anyone interested and concerned about these issues may attend the presentation as well as participate in the discussion.

For more information, visit to learn more about current undertakings directed at caring for those experiencing homelessness.

For questions regarding the conference, contact Daniel Vasquez at (915) 577‐0069 ext. 239.

Jesus Lopez may be reached at [email protected].



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The Faces of Homelessness conference