Summer Street Outreach – Salt Lake City

With the team home from our first ever Summer Street Outreach in Salt Lake City, we want to share some firsthand experiences from Taylor Bond, surf and skate staff in our Outreach department. For seven days this crew of four men experienced life living on the streets with little to no money in their pockets, making friends and having their eyes opened along the way. See below for photos from Taylor’s disposable camera and his words on how the trip impacted him. 

The whole gang.Taylor and Anne on the last day.
Charlie’s set up for the night.

Recently, I got the chance to travel to Salt Lake City, Utah and live on the street for a week alongside Tom Bauer, the co-founder of Surfing the Nations, and two other companions: Charlie, a young world traveler from California, and Troy, a realtor from Oahu. Sometimes opportunities arise which you know you can’t pass up. Hearing about this outreach that requires nothing of you except sacrificing what most of us take for granted like a bed, money, safety, and a means of communication was one of those opportunities I couldn’t miss. In some ways I thought of the trip as a time to prove something to myself and others; that I’m not too comfortable or complacent in my life. Never could I have dreamed how this trip would truly impact me. These seven days were much more than proving something to myself and enduring a challenging time, it was realizing that relationships are the most important thing we have.

As this outreach approached I was understandably apprehensive. Questions ran through my head like, “What are we going to eat?” and “Where are we going to sleep?” But in reality, what really mattered was “who am I going to meet?” and “how can I make a difference?” Sleeping on the streets gave us the opportunity to connect and relate with those who are homeless in a way I’ve never been able to before. Not only did we begin to understand their struggle, but we also realized that our experience was just scratching the surface of what it’s like to live on the streets. For me the truly rewarding moments of this outreach were the moments spent with the people society has rejected and cast aside. Getting to talk with them or even share some of our food completely changed the atmosphere in the hearts of those we met. We met many impactful individuals, but one I won’t forget is a woman named Anne. Anne is a woman who has lived a homeless lifestyle for the past 10 years. I could see the broad potential she had, but I could also see that she was deeply wounded by those she trusted in the past. She’s chosen to live this lifestyle now because she doesn’t believe society holds a place for her anymore. It broke my heart to see someone who is so kind, smart, and genuine completely rejected by everything she’s known. As the week went by I got the opportunity to see her several times and each time she opened up a little more to our love. At the end of our time in Salt Lake City I saw her one last time and said my goodbyes. I could tell she was in disbelief that I would embrace her as a true friend without any judgement or conditions. We just wanted to spend time with her. Her demeanor had changed from guarded and indifferent from our first meeting to open and joyful when we left.

There are countless amazing stories from this trip and many unforgettable connections made but befriending Anne stood out to me because I could tangibly see how our love and acceptance had made a lasting impression on her. An impression, I can only hope, that will begin to show her how great her worth is. This experience completely changed my outlook on life and the way I view people because it put me in the shoes of those I couldn’t relate to as deeply before. It’s easy to become complacent in our view of others and their struggles, but breaking the mold of my comfortable daily life allowed me to appreciate the struggles of homeless life in a new way. I would never trade my seven days living on the streets for any luxurious vacation.

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