Ozone House gives students access to a multitude of helpful resources

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Started during the Vietnam War as a safe haven for young people protesting the war, Ozone House has been in the Ann Arbor community since 1969. The non-profit organization has come a long way, with a wide variety of services and programs for youth and their families. 

“A lot of people I used to know get into a lot of trouble like they’re either locked up or doing drugs, but I think I come here for resources, to get away from them and create a better life for me.” says a teen who asked not to be named. The Drop-In Center is located in downtown Ypsilanti. Along with general support, the Drop-In Center also offers weekly events where youth can learn about different career paths, perform at an open mic, and get substance use education. 

“I get the opportunity to be around where all the benefits are. I get exposed to new activities and go places I’ve never been before because we take a lot of field trips.”  says another Drop-In participant who has been hanging out there after school for about three years. 

“Ozone House has been an opportunity to learn and build and form a community with adults and young people where we are privileged to interact and learn from them.” says Scott Phillips, Youth Employment Coordinator, who has worked with Ozone House for six and a half years. Phillips runs the WorkZone program, which helps 16 to 20 year olds gain professional skills and create a resumé. At the end of training, participants get a paid internship in the community. Phillips spoke on how it’s not just a place for ‘bad’ or ‘troubled’ kids. “The young people that come here aren’t any different than the young people you go to school with, or that you’re friends with.” 

Peer Outreach Worker and junior at Ypsilanti Community High School, Damarkus Webb spoke about what Ozone means to him and the impact Ozone has made on him. Webb had been a participant at the Drop-In Center for years before becoming a Peer Outreach Worker, and says “It’s a safe place where I get to meet new teens and I’ve learned about what there is to do after high school,” said Webb. Peer Outreach Workers, are a group of teens between the ages of 13 to 18 who go through a one week long interview process, and are chosen for a year long position. The POWs assist other teens who need creative outlets, need help learning life skills, and are struggling at home or school. Peer Outreach Workers go into the community and teach others about Ozone House programs and services.  

Alice Hudson, Peer Substance Use Support Advocatet at Ozone House and sophomore at Ypsilanti Community High School, is a testament to how impactful Ozone House can be. Last year, Hudson was a POW and this year went out for the lead position, but instead was offered a newly created role in an area she is passionate about. The new position has made it possible for Hudson to continue to work in a supportive space, Hudson explains “ It’s like a community. The staff is very welcoming. They can connect you to resources.” 

Sharonda Simmons who is the Director of Education, Outreach, and Welcoming has worked at Ozone House for over a year. Simmons has worked in the non-profit industry for about a decade. “I train other people to positively work with young people and make programing that has youth voice.” 

 The main location in Ann Arbor houses the youth shelter program, SafeStay. Youth 10 to 17 can stay for up to two weeks with parent permission, if they don’t have a safe place to stay or just need a break from their family for a while. The goal of the program is to bring families back together safely, and with ongoing support. SafeStay includes individual counseling every weekday, and family counseling once a week.  

Counseling is also available for up to 3 months for anyone between the ages of 10 to 20, with both individual and family counseling options. Along with shelter and therapy, housing is one of the main areas that Ozone House helps with, for clients over 18 case management is available. Case management clients meet with their assigned worker once a week to work on goals they created and independent living skills. All of Ozone House’s services are free, confidential and voluntary, meaning youth can’t be forced to call or be in a program they don’t want to be in. 

  The largest service that Ozone House provides is the 24 hour crisis line at 734-662-2222. The line is always on, even on holidays. If you or someone you know needs help, or wants to use Ozone House’s services, call this number. “The staff at the Ozone will work with you no matter the situation.” says Hudson.