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Help bring hope to homeless youth

Janet Kiplinger Ciccone
December 03, 2014

You can help a homeless youth rejoin society

Imagine you’re the kitchen at Star House, the drop-in center serving our most vulnerable population of youth—those who are homeless, without an adult to care for them.

As kitchen’s go, you’re tiny. You have only a 9- by 10-foot space in the modest, 1,800-square-foot house founded by Professor Natasha Slesnick in the Weinland Park neighborhood. Each year, despite your miniscule size, you host 10,000 visits from hungry, energetic youth ages 14 to 24.

Volunteers and staff work in your space, too, preparing food. Everyone opens and closes your cabinets, assembles meals and snacks on your countertops and washes dishes in your sink.

With so much use, your cabinets are splintered and held together with duct tape. Your battered sink and counters are in deplorable condition. What’s a kitchen to do?

The answer came from the people at Lowe’s Home Improvement and volunteers from the congregation of Grace Fellowship. They knew Star House would be moving to a new facility in six months, but they felt a functional kitchen could not wait.

The two groups came to the rescue by sharing the cost of a working sink, smooth counters and fresh new cabinets with working doors and drawers. Members of Grace Fellowship rolled up their sleeves on November 11, Veterans Day, when they picked up the new fixtures from Lowe’s and installed them at Star House.

Doug Brownfield, community liaison at Lowe’s, said the company has long supported the College of Education and Human Ecology and Ohio State University’s efforts to fulfil needs in the Weinland Park neighborhood.

“We’ve supported the Schoenbaum Family Center and neighborhood improvements,” said Brownfield. “When we learned about how Star House helps homeless youth, we wanted to do our part. Improving the kitchen was the perfect opportunity for Lowe’s to lend a hand.”

Nicole Waggoner, local outreach coordinator for the church headquartered in Pickerington, explained that when Grace Fellowship learned about the homeless youth in Columbus and how Star House helps, they volunteered.

“The people of Grace Fellowship have provided meals, clothes and hygiene products. We’ve helped with cleaning and remodeling projects. Currently, Grace is collecting backpacks filled with basic needs like flashlights, hand warming packets and pillows. The list came from the mouths of the kids.”

Grace Fellowship is pleased that Star House is in contract for a new facility. “We’re excited to help them meet the needs of more people,” Waggoner said. “We want to be a part of that and will help however we can.”

Help youth in need find a place to live, return to school or work

Star House’s current location is woefully inadequate in size. The limited space allows Slesnick and her staff to reach only a fraction of the youth who knock on the door each day for help.

You can help Star House move to its new, 14,000-square-foot facility that will serve all the youth so desperately needing services.

“We average 60 youth per day coming to Star House, and the number is growing,” Slesnick said. “At times, we must turn youth away due to overcrowding. This is an untenable situation.”

An estimated 1,200-1,500 young people live on the streets in central Ohio. They grab a night here and there on a friend’s couch or camp in a vacant lot with other homeless folks. They find a meal at a sandwich line or soup kitchen, but often they go hungry. They are alone, without funds or friends.

Each youth comes to Star House seeking hope and a chance to rejoin mainstream society.

Star House staff members help them find places to live, return to school or search for jobs. The youth gain medical care and obtain their birth certificates and required identification cards.

Licensed therapists offer crises intervention, since many youth have been abused or traumatized while living on the streets.

Your gifts can help renovate the new building, which was formerly a warehouse. You can help fund the move next June to a space that will also house partner services to assist the youth, such as a health services room. There will be a social enterprise program that will place youth in jobs to bring them income and financial sustainability opportunities for Star House.

Our supporters take pride in knowing they are meeting an overwhelming demand for help from our most marginalized and vulnerable population of young people.

Earlier this year, a young man only 9 years of age collected donations from his friends instead of birthday gifts and gave them to Star House. You can join him.

Give now to the Homeless Youth Research Fund #315804. You can bring new hope to a young person’s life.