Guest blogger: Shawntae Harris.
I discovered Ozone House by accident about 4 or 5 years ago. I lived in Flint at the time and worked for a youth shelter that is very similar to Ozone House. Our organization was seeking to enhance our online presence and I used to browse other nonprofits’ websites for ideas. Through this research, I found Ozone House.
I served on our shelter’s technology committee at the time, and I recently stumbled upon some old notes from those meetings. Let’s just say…my Ozone House inspiration was very apparent! Actual lines from these meeting notes say things like: “Set up Amazon Wish List….like Ozone” or “Start an e-newsletter…like Ozone.” Years before I moved to Washtenaw County, Ozone House already had me hooked!
The more I learned about Ozone House, the more I fell in love with the organization and its mission. Youth homelessness is an issue that is very near to my heart. Partially because I worked in a similar organization for so long. But a big reason why I am passionate about this topic is because I experienced extreme housing insecurity as a college student. There were points during this period where I was considered homeless, even though I didn’t recognize that at the time. Between my work with homeless youth and my own lived experiences, I understand firsthand the importance of the work being done by Ozone House.
Ozone House is a crucial resource for youth and families here in Washtenaw County. When I moved to Ypsilanti last summer for graduate school, one of the first things I did was seek out volunteer opportunities with Ozone House. Luckily for me, the Millennial Ozone Board (MOB!) was just getting up and running. Through this volunteer opportunity, I have come to learn even more about an organization that I had admired for so long. And it turns out, Ozone House does even more than what I realized!
One of Ozone House’s programs that continues to excite and impress me, is the new MORE support program. Through this program, a therapist from Ozone House is placed at Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University to provide counseling services for homeless college students. I currently work in higher education, at both EMU and WCC, and have already been able to refer some of my students to the MORE program. As someone who could have benefited from a program like this in the past, I am grateful to see Ozone House responding to this need.
In the short time that I have lived here in Washtenaw County, Ozone House has become incredibly important to me. I am relieved when I am able to refer one of my students to Ozone House, because I know they will be in good hands. I am excited when I wear my Ozone House shirt in public and people recognize the logo and ask me questions. And I continue to be inspired by Ozone House, just like I was several years ago when I accidentally discovered their website. Now, instead of simply admiring Ozone House from afar, I am able to give back to my new community through this amazing organization.