A collaboration between two Ypsilanti-based nonprofits, Our House and HouseN2Home, has created a "home" for teenagers about to transition out of foster care.
WEMU's Lisa Barry and On the Ground Ypsi project manager Sarah Rigg talk with Natasha Doan-Motsinger, the executive director of Our House, about how they worked together to create this necessary space.
Sarah Rigg's Feature Article: Ypsi nonprofits collaborate to create cozy housing for youth transitioning out of foster care
Lisa Barry: You're listening to eighty nine one WEMU, and this is On the Ground Ypsi, our weekly conversation with Sarah Rigg, project manager for the Concentrate Media Project by that name. And we want to welcome Sarah. What did you write about this week and who else is joining us to talk more about that?
Sarah Rigg: So, I'm writing about two nonprofits that I have actually written about in the past, that they had a really cool collaboration over the summer. And so, I have brought with me Natasha Motsinger, who is the executive director of Our House, an organization that serves young people who are transitioning out of foster care. They already have one supportive housing location that they call the Launch Pad, and they are opening up a second supportive housing unit for slightly younger foster kids who are getting ready to transition out. And they were helped in putting their house together and getting it all furnished by another local nonprofit called HouseN2Home. HouseN2Home typically helps people who are coming out of homelessness, maybe transitioning out of a shelter into their first apartment, post-homelessness. And they help them furnish it with you know, bed linens, couches, everything they need, including, you know, decorations for the house. This is not sort of their usual wheelhouse. It happens to do with homelessness, but they thought it would be a good project for them to help furnish the new home for Our House. And I will let Natasha talk about it in more detail.
Lisa Barry: Tell us about this. Is this a second location for the Our House program now?
Natasha Motsinger: It is, yes. So, in the past year, we have added this new program with a contract with the state through DHHS. So, we will actually be a contracted, licensed independent living facility at the second house. The second house is twice as large as the current house that we have. So our new program that we just got has 10 bedrooms and a basement. And it's basically a four-story former sorority house close to Eastern's campus, but not surrounded by other sorority and fraternity houses. It'll be housing youth between the ages of 16 and 20 who have demonstrated a need and a desire to learn to live independently and have that support while they develop those skills. We will hopefully be able to reach them at that younger age and be able to teach them those skills before they go out to the community. This would not have been possible at all without the strong support from HouseN2Home and many other community volunteers and other nonprofits who came together. This house was huge. It was a big project. Every room had to be painted, everything needed to be put together. We didn't have because, you know, we were just starting from scratch. We actually didn't have any of our furniture. We had nothing. But we had a plan. And as we were getting ready to implement that plan, our staff, a program manager who will actually be living on site with the youth in the new program, her mother is an employee with HouseN2Home. And, so she mentioned what we were doing and what we were needing. And they made that connection to Laura Roth, who is with HouseN2Home, came to our founders. And, somehow, I magically convinced them that this would be a good project for them. And we are so lucky. I mean, the place is beautiful. There's ten beds, desks, dressers, bookshelves in each room. Every bedroom has art that can be traded out to be specific to that individual's taste, culture, and interests. There is school supplies put in every desk from that bottom to the top. They really made this place a home that people will want to live in. I would want to live there. It's so beautiful. They did an amazing job. On August 27th, we were finally finished painting thanks to the help of a local painter by the name of Allen Navarro, who volunteered his time and spent three weeks with us painting all ten bedrooms plus every common area. After that got finished, they were able to come in and set everything up and be our magic little elves. I got to come in toward the end of the day when they were wrapping it up, and it was like one of those Extreme Home Makeover episodes for me. I got to walk through and have this awe-inspiring experience of seeing how wonderful these volunteers were and coming together to create something for these kids who many of them have not had anything this size.
Lisa Barry: While the good news is you're expanding, but the not such good news is that there is a need for a place for those aging out of the foster care system to live.
Natasha Motsinger: Absolutely. Yes. We are the only Washtenaw County-based facility of this kind. I use the word facility because of it's familiar, but we actually hate that. So we're calling it a home.
Lisa Barry: Right.
Natasha Motsinger: And we don't want it to feel anything like a facility. We want them to feel like it's their house, It's their home. We are Our House, and this is their house, so, yeah, it definitely was a need. As soon as we have announced to DHHS our intentions, which they were fully aware of and encouraged us to open this and then present it to the courts and other local agencies, that we learned just how much need there is for it. We already have a waiting list, and we haven't even opened our doors yet. I'm not even done with training until Friday. So, as soon as we are ready to go, we will have youth who are ready to move in.
Lisa Barry: One thing Sarah mentioned in her story about this this week is the books that you stocked the house with. Can you tell us about that?
Natasha Motsinger: One of the things that HouseN2Home does for everybody that they work with is asked for specific requests regarding literature and art or anything that somebody might want. They want to know your tastes, your favorite color, that kind of thing. And because we can't predict who will end up in our house, we asked for a variety of art and literature that would reflect protagonists from different cultures and a diverse set of art that could be applied to anyone and represents the people that might be living in the house, whether they be from any community. So, we have books that have heroines who are LGBTQ and every other race and culture out there. HouseN2Home actually delivered over 100 books just last week to fill up the rest of what we're calling the library area. And it's a wonderful collection, and we hope to start a book club in the house because promoting reading is something that we as an agency already do and have a book club. But we're going to expand it to be specific to these youth.
Lisa Barry: And, Sarah, who else do you talk to for this week's article?
Sarah Rigg: So, I spoke to Anna, who Natasha mentioned briefly who is going to be the live-in staff at the house and talked to her about her experience. And then I talked to Laura Roth and with Ruth Ann Logue from HouseN2Home, and they had a little update about their organization. They actually were going strong all the way through the pandemic. They typically are furnishing at least one apartment for somebody coming out of homelessness. It's multiple times a week, every week. And it's amazing how many they do, even all the way to the pandemic. But what really was hard for them was, after the pandemic, everybody wanted--after the pandemic restrictions were lifted--everybody wanted to travel. So, Ruth Ann was saying that this summer has been difficult because they didn't have as many volunteers as usual, which means they can't do as many apartments as usual. And I've seen them in action. It's just amazing. They come in on an apartment with all the furniture, and they typically have the entire place set up in for five hours or less. Took longer with Our House, because it's a three story house instead of an apartment. But, anyway, they always need volunteers, and so, there's a link to their website in there. Anybody thinks this is a cool cause, you know, you've got an opportunity to help them out by either donating gently-used furniture or volunteering.
Lisa Barry: Sarah Rigg. On the Ground Ypsi. We look forward to reading more about this. Natasha Motsinger, executive director of Our House. Thanks for talking to us here as well.
Sarah Rigg: Thanks, Lisa.
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