Community

UCF Student Spearheads Nonprofit Dedicated to Addressing Homelessness in Orlando

By Yasmyn Chambers |
February 20, 2019

Nonprofit management alumnus Eric Carmarillo '16 (right) started Service and Love Together Outreach, Inc. to help the homeless community in Orlando. (Photo by Austin Warren)

UCF graduate student Eric Camarillo ’16 had planned to start an organization after graduation to help the homeless in Central Florida with food, clothing and other necessities, but decided he couldn’t stand by and wait — so he started early to fill those immediate needs.

Camarillo, who earned a degree in social work and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in nonprofit management at UCF, started Service and Love Together Outreach, Inc.to provide consistent support and stability to the homeless community.

“I thought I would do all of these things when I graduated in order to have an impact on people, but why not do something now?” – Eric Camarillo ’16, SALT founder

“I thought I would do all of these things when I graduated in order to have an impact on people,” he says, “but why not do something now?”

Camarillo has used what he’s learned in the classroom to grow the organization and support the community.

According to a 2018 study by the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, more than 2,000 people are homeless in the region. Governmental and non-governmental organizations already play an important role in reducing homelessness but there is always a need for additional support.

Since its inception in 2011, SALT has expanded to provide outreach programs for youths, hospitals, homeless and faith-based organization. SALT runs programs through a network of 100 active volunteers, including more than 15 outreach leaders. It also has partnered with the YMCA to provide tutoring services to students at underserved elementary schools.

Service and Love Together Outreach, Inc. (SALT) started as an organization providing food to the homeless, but later expanded its efforts to include clothing donations from its Change trailer. (Photo by Austin Warren)

“We realized, oftentimes, schools that need the most help have the least volunteers, and we are looking to fill that void,” Camarillo says. Volunteers assist students for at least six months in science, math and reading.

What began as an organization providing meals to people in need blossomed into an organization that offers additional services that often are overlooked. The organization raised more than $4,000 to establish a clothing trailer called Change, which addresses the need for work-appropriate clothing for individuals seeking employment.

As a result, SALT has distributed more than 55,000 pounds of food and 3,000 articles of clothing to the community.

The clothing trailer highlighted another need in the community that led to SALT’s most recent project — a shower trailer.

“Clean clothing doesn’t mean much without a shower. Some individuals hadn’t showered in three months and were actively looking for a job,” Camarillo says.

“The energy we bring and the passion we have for making a difference has really fueled the organization.” – Eric Camarillo ’16, SALT founder

Based on this need, SALT raised more than $40,000 to debut the shower trailer in August. The trailer is parked at Orlando Central Seventh-day Adventist Church near Broadway Avenue and Colonial Drive, and is operated by SALT volunteers on the second Sunday of each month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Patrons are also provided with hygiene-care packages, clothing, haircuts and a hot meal.

“Our goal in the next year is to raise enough funds to consistently run the program. We would like to operate on weekdays to better support those actively seeking work throughout the week,” Camarillo says.

SALT also is committed to its mission to support people wherever needed. Volunteers took the shower trailer to the Florida Panhandle last year to assist victims devastated by Hurricane Michael.

Camarillo attributes the success of SALT to the volunteers who dedicate their time and talents to these programs.

“Our organization is led by young adults — most of them in college or recent graduates. The energy we bring and the passion we have for making a difference has really fueled the organization.”