From food and clothing to art and basketball, the Columbus Center is a lifeline in Central Ohio.

 

By Celina Nader

“It’s the little things,” says Sarah Douglas as she greets me at the Star House check-in desk. She’s the volunteer coordinator at this homeless youth center—the only research-based drop-in center in the United States—but it’s clear upon spending just a few minutes with her that she wears more than one hat.

As she takes me on a tour through the building, each young adult she passes gives her a smile, updates her on something exciting in their life or gives her a giant hug. She plays an integral role here, especially as Star House grows. In 2017 alone, the Columbus facility served 996 different people, for a total of about 20,000 visits.

The center first opened its doors in October 2006 with funding from Ohio State University and a mission: research, teaching and service. Today, it functions as an independent nonprofit agency, but the mission remains consistent.

Star House provides Central Ohio’s homeless youth with a variety of resources, both creative and essential. The 14,000-square-foot facility nestled among industrial tenants of a business park between the Weinland Park neighborhood and I-71 houses a computer room, a gym with basketball hoops and equipment, a stocked kitchen, food pantries, a laundry room and racks of free clothes, a quiet room with books and reading chairs, a medical clinic, an expansive common room stocked with board games, and a beautiful art room.

From food and clothing to art and basketball, Star House is a lifeline in Central Ohio.

“This is where the magic happens,” Douglas declares, leading me inside the art space. A bright red piano resides in one corner, and it’s not long before someone wanders in and plays it. Paints and canvased paintings take up every square inch of wall space, punctuated by a few mannequins dressed in innovative, repurposed fashion.

Fashion is one creative medium that Star House uses to help its clients by partnering with another nonprofit, Unchained, to create a fashion show that raises awareness about human trafficking and features designs by Star House’s own youth.

This year’s Star House UNCHAINED Fashion Show, Sponsored by Easton Community Foundation and The Funny Bone Comedy Club will be at Funny Bone in Easton on Tuesday, May 29. All ticket proceeds go toward Unchained’s mission of identifying and eradicating human sex trafficking. Featured Star House designers also get a valuable opportunity to share their stories and struggles through art.

Tickets for the show are sold online at columbus.funnybone.com.

There are many other ways to get involved with Star House as well. The organization always needs volunteers and works flexibly with each volunteer’s unique talents and abilities. Donations are greatly appreciated— new men’s and women’s underwear, tennis shoes and hoodies are in high demand—as are financial contributions.

Celina Nader is a Syrian-American writer, chef and blogger currently working on a collection of creative nonfiction stories regarding the Syrian people and their lives during war. You can read more of her writing at insatiableblog.com, and follow her on Instagram at @Insatiableblog.