Ozone House Part 2

. June 28, 2012.

When Meghan was in middle school she followed her big sister to the Ozone House’s Drop-in Center for the first time—a moment that changed her life. Through the years Meghan utilized the after school programs at the center, eventually lending some of her time as a volunteer and joining the poetry team. On a poetry team field trip to New York City, Meghan felt an instant connection with the Big Apple, and with the support of the Ozone House, she followed her dream. Now a student at NYU, Meghan has nothing but good things to say about the Drop-in Center and its programs.

“I thought the Drop-in was the coolest place in the entire world because there were all these positive young people and a lot of positive energy,” Meghan said. “It was so different from the neighborhood we lived in.”

The Ozone House, founded in 1969 as a temporary shelter in Ann Arbor for homeless youth, expanded in 1999, adding a Drop-in Center in Ypsilanti, where anyone between the age of 13 to 20 could come any or every day after school for a hot meal, support, or simply a place to hang out.

And while Megan’s story is exceptional, Drop-in Center Director of Youth Development Colleen O’Brien views any individual taking a step in the right direction as a success story. Whether it’s getting better grades in school, finding a job or just staying safe, O’Brien celebrates each individual’s triumphs equally.

“People want to share their successes,” O’Brien said. “Folks are working hard and there are positive stories all the time.”

O’Brien said part of the Drop-in Center’s success is attributed to its non-invasive approach. Youth can stop in at any time, leave when they want and are not inculcated with any sort of message. The center acts as a safe zone, allowing the youth to develop a relationship with the staff or just to have a warm, fun place to hang out.

The staff believes creativity is necessary for the youth to express themselves, or, possibly, to channel their resentment or anger. The center offers arts supplies and projects, writing programs, and they have also recently installed a small recording studio.

“We are always looking for opportunities for young folks to express themselves,” she said. “Expression is important for development.”

While some may view the Drop-in as a place for troubled youth, O’Brien says the center is for all youth, whether they are experiencing abuse or want to meet new people.

“They are trying to find out who they are, where they fit in, how they will express themselves,” O’Brien said. “The Drop-in Center is a place for all youth between the ages of 13 and 20. We can all use support, we can all use a friend, we can all use a safe place to hang out.”