Since 2019, the Youth Outreach, Safety and Transportation Program has placed Ozone House’s Transportation and Community Outreach Coordinator at the Ypsilanti Transit Center and on key bus routes. The Coordinator’s role is to connect with young people and community members for outreach and relationship building, crisis prevention and intervention, and resource support. The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA aka TheRide) initiated this groundbreaking program where an Ozone House youth focused outreach worker from a community based non-profit is sited at a local transit center.
Our current Transportation and Community Outreach Coordinator is Jeannette Hadden. Jeanette brings years of community activism and community outreach experience in Ypsilanti to this role. During a typical day, Jeannette will walk the short distance from Ozone House’s Drop-In Center to the Ypsilanti Transit Center and connect with transportation staff, youth and adult riders and others passing by. On her way out the door, she packs up several basic needs kits to give out, stuffs her outreach bag with snacks, hand sanitizers and masks and Ozone House’s outreach cards that guide young people to services like a 24 hour crisis-line, shelter, food, and case management resources.
“The Ride is grateful for the partnership with Ozone House. Together, we have been able to serve the community, reduce incidents, and make our service better.”
– Bryan D. Smith Deputy CEO, Operations with TheRide // Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority
In recent years, the city of Ypsilanti, MI and the surrounding area in Washtenaw County have experienced a sharp increase in gun violence and youth violence in the community. Fights and violence between young people at bus stops and on busses had been increasing since 2015, which often resulted in youth having their bus passes suspended and therefore were unable to get to school or work. Even further, these conflicts would spill over into the community and often escalate. In response to this violence, Ozone House started the Ypsilanti Youth Safety Network in 2017 for local providers to work together to support the growing safety needs near the Ypsilanti Transit Center and beyond.
Once the partnership between Ozone House and AAATA was formalized, the positive impacts of this program were felt almost immediately with the arrival of the new Transportation and Community Outreach Coordinator. Within the first few months of the program, AAATA staff saw and felt the decline in the number of verbal and physical altercations. Because of open communication between Ozone House’s team members, security guards, and bus drivers, Ypsilanti Transit Center staff began to regularly call or visit Ozone House’s nearby Drop-In Center to keep Ozone House staff abreast of potential youth conflicts; this level of communication allows Ozone House staff to help prevent, intervene and provide support to youth and AAATA staff in ways that prevent conflict or alleviate further escalation. The Youth Outreach, Safety and Transportation Program serves as a model for how other communities across the country can form a partnership between a non-profit human services organization and a local transit authority. Transportation plays such a pivotal role in the lives of young people and supporting their ability to navigate these spaces safely can have overflowing benefits to the whole community.