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 Before I get into today’s (FIRST EVER) share the spark feature,
I’d like to request that you simply take a moment to think about the word
“homeless”.

I want you to really think about it.
Picture “homeless” in your mind.
Now imagine that “Homeless” is a person.
Who do you see?
A male? A female?
How old are they?
What do they look like?
Where are they, in this picture your mind has created?
What are they doing?

If you’re like much of the population, you’ve probably imagined someone very similar to the likes of “The Friendly Pigeon Lady” in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York–torn clothing, disheveled hair, and a few patches of dirt on their face and hands. Someone who has ended up homeless–perhaps by some immoral fault of their own.

What you probably didn’t imagine was a talented and hard-working 17-year-old, dressed in a well ironed button-up shirt, who’s exhausted from working 3 minimum-wage jobs—jobs that still don’t pay enough to cover the cost of living, let alone the monthly cost of renting an apartment in Columbus.

Long story short?
You, like so many others (myself included),
have fallen into believing a stereotype.

A stereotype that says homelessness has one set appearance.
A stereotype that says homelessness does not affect our youth.

This stereotype is exactly what Sarah Douglas and all of the team at the OSU Star House —the team that was kind enough to take the time to share their story, as well as give me a first-hand look at their facility–are hoping to break.

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’Youth experiencing homelessness’, because I don’t like to put the symptom before the person”, Sarah (Volunteer and Donations Coordinator) explained as the OSU Star House story and tour began to unfold.

Walking into the main lobby, I was utterly entranced by the environment that surrounded me. In the room to my right, a doctor was welcoming a teen for a check-up appointment. In front of me, I couldn’t distinguish the youth from the monitors as I saw a crowd of people standing together in the full kitchen, cooking, laughing, and talking with one another. To my left, a room filled with computers, many of which were being used by the youth who were searching and applying for jobs.

Moving forward, Sarah lead me through the living room, the laundry room, the quiet room, the gymnasium, the donation room, and the art room.

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The Laundry Room: Youth are both welcomed and encouraged to wash their clothing, especially prior to going on a job interview.

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The Gymnasium/Workout Room: This room is open 24/7, and youth have the option to play basketball, soccer, ping-pong, use the weight machines, or play games.

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The Donation Room: Here, they keep any and all donations, as well as a supply of clothing (organized by size) that youth are free to choose from. In the next couple of months, volunteers will be coming in to install shelving units to assist in providing an even more organized environment!

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The Art Room: A space that provides youth and volunteers with the opportunity to team up and express themselves, freely. Volunteers teach various classes (painting/writing/etc.), to assist in motivating and inspiring the youth. This room is a favorite of the Star House youth.

Due to privacy restrictions, I was unable to capture “The Daily Needs Center”, which is a room that supplies youth with everything from socks and underwear to book bags and sleeping bags. Additionally, youth can also find daily necessities such as tampons, pads, diapers, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, shampoo, and conditioner.

 As the tour came to an end, Sarah and I walked back from the building offices, where she had introduced me to the on-site therapists, monitors, staff members, and an adorable therapy dog named Bailey (who just loves a good belly rub). Together, these people serve as the fuel behind the fire that is the OSU Star House.

Working to constantly encourage their youth to never lose hope and always believe in themselves, Sarah tells me the primary goal at Star House is to provide the youth with any and all resources necessary, and to do whatever they can to “humanize homelessness.”

Homelessness can happen to anyone”, Sarah explains as she accompanies me to the exit. “We want people to realize this. We want to humanize homelessness because it’s nothing to be embarrassed of. Some of the most successful people in the world have experienced homelessness, and we constantly remind our youth of that. It can truly happen to anyone.”

With that in mind, I would like to take this moment to thank Sarah, as well as everyone at the OSU Star House, not only for welcoming me into their space, but also for working so hard to make this community a better place. Thank you for being a true sparkler, and thank you for all that you do.

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Please contact Sarah Douglas (douglas.409@osu.edu)
or visit the Star House website (https://starhouse.ehe.osu.edu/)
for detailed information on how to volunteer and/or drop off donations.

About Alisha Thomas

Alisha is our former “best meeting ever coordinator” at sparkspace.

  • carolinegolon

    Thank you for this article and sharing the great work the OSU Star House is doing. I had no idea this life changing place existed! I’ll definitely be making a donation to them to support this wonderful effort to help kids in need.

  • Janet Gordon Callison

    Awesome article Alisha! Your spark shines through your writing. My family will certainly consider making a donation to Star House!

  • Janet Gordon Callison

    Awesome article Alisha! Your spark shines through your writing. My family will certainly consider making a donation to Star House!