Washtenaw County area youth have a new safe space
Ozone House has been helping youth in crisis for 50 years. Now, the organization will do that from a new facility in Ypsilanti. Annually, in Washtenaw County, the number of homeless youth sits at about 1,300, due to abuse, neglect or rejection; mental illness or financial difficulties of their parents; or other crises. Each year, Ozone House provides safe refuge for 800 young people and more than 4,000 hours of professional therapy to those who seek services. The community-based, nonprofit agency has a mission “to help young people lead safe, healthy and productive lives through intervention and prevention services.”
Big possibilities in a bigger building
Staff and the youth served will see benefits of the new facility as more space, more privacy and housing almost everything under one roof.
The newly built 19,000 square-foot building at 1600 N. Huron River Drive will allow the organization to consolidate many services at the new location and house and counsel more young people than before. The new facility will be the location for Ozone House’s emergency shelter for youth ages 10-17, transitional housing for youth ages 17-20, the 24-hour crisis line, their administrative offices, as well as an array of services that have come to be a vital part of the nonprofit’s mission since its formation 50 years ago.
“We not only provide for youth housing, but we also do counseling, case management, job training, after-school programming, leadership and life skills training,” said Heidi Ruud, Ozone House marketing and communications manager. “Ozone House focuses on providing a safe space for young people in crisis. We help them foster healthy relationships, and we help them realize their strengths and be productive in the community.”
New and improved
The organization, providing these services for a long time at two locations in Ann Arbor and a drop-in center in Ypsilanti, Ruud explains, “We are so good at what we do and the quality of our facilities didn’t match the care that we provide.”
The young people Ozone House serves are often navigating trauma and crisis and in desperate need of a sense of security, stability and consistency. Erica Odum, residential coordinator, said the young people look forward to having their own space, a sense of privacy and simple conveniences like having more than one washer so people can do laundry at the same time.
Now, instead of having a combined four shared rooms that sleep 12 at the current facilities, they will have 16 private bedrooms that can sleep 32 young people. In addition, they will have 11 counseling rooms, three kitchens, seven youth bathrooms, a community room for training and functions, an expanded food and necessities pantry, as well as laundry and shower facilities for day services for older youth. Public transportation is steps from the front door.
Ruud said, having dedicated office space for counseling and other services will be wonderful. “A lot of very personal conversations happen between our staff, counselors and young people. Our counselors will also have dedicated space that will be predictable and comfortable for youth and their families.”
Transition to a new home
The transition to the new facility will be gradual, with Ozone House moving services from their Washtenaw Avenue location first. The Ozone House facility at 1705 Washtenaw Avenue has already been sold, but, Ruud said, the buyer has been gracious in letting them stay until February through their transition. Ozone’s house on the West side of Ann Arbor will also be put up for sale with the transitional living housing moved to the new location shortly.
The drop-in center at 102 North Hamilton Street in Ypsilanti will remain. The center offers a safe place for youth ages 13-20 to hang out, eat, do laundry, take a shower, get information, and get job coaching. It is also home to the organization’s Peer Outreach Workers (POW), a group of young people trained in leadership skills to be Ozone House ambassadors to other youths during a year-long paid internship experience. Some services at the drop-in center will move to the new facility.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for donors to the organization’s capital campaign is in mid-January and an open house for the public is in early March. Ruud said when the building is finished, and they get their appropriate licensing and move in, they hope to organize volunteers to help set up bedrooms and kitchen spaces.
To find out more about Ozone House go to Ozonehouse.org.
For their Crisis Line text “Ozone” or call 734-662-2222