Homeless drop-in center to remain open

John Ross, Columbus Alive
Photo by Alysia Burton

The Ohio State University STAR House will remain shining into next year, thanks to fundraisers, public donations and new research dollars that have staved off financial woes facing the center for homeless youths.

An original grant that provided the bulk of the drop-in center's operating expenses expired June 30, and the shelter was at risk of closing in December if it didn't receive additional support.

"There was a lot of relief and gratitude - and some security," program coordinator Jeana Patterson said about remaining open into next year.

Started as a research project by Professor Natasha Slesnick, the house is staffed by OSU students, faculty and volunteers. The Campus facility is not supported financially by the university.

Slesnick recently was awarded a research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that will help sustain a portion of the center when funds are allocated in April, Patterson said. The center also has received private donations, many of them anonymous.

Other assistance came from varied sources during the past several months, said Sandy Sawyer, an OSU graduate student who works with the house.

Local musician Joey Hendrickson donated proceeds from a special album inspired by a homeless veteran, and a fundraiser at Gresso's in Merion Village raised more than $2,000. Local freelance writer Hanif Abdurraqib organized a fundraiser at Veritas Community Church that featured art created by STAR House youths and several bands.

"I felt like we did raise some money that day," Abdurraqib said. "On a grander scale, what we raised was awareness."

Abdurraqib said he admired the mission of helping homeless kids, pointing out that homelessness among youths is a problem that's often overlooked.

The STAR House, which stands for Serving and Treating Adolescent Runaways, serves people ages 14 to 24. It offers free meals, shower and laundry facilities, internet access, a phone, places to nap and a wealth of occupational resources. Staff members often help visitors create resumes, study for tests or prepare for job interviews.

Though it won't close in December, Patterson said that the center will continue to seek additional funds and volunteers.

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