Janet Soltis Jefferson Award 2019 Finalist

One afternoon per month, you will find Janet Soltis in the Huckleberry House crisis shelter’s kitchen, baking with teenagers. The teenagers are there because they are experiencing some sort of crisis – neglect, abuse, homelessness, stress at home. Janet is there because she believes that “what the youth really need is to know that someone cares and that they are valued.”

Janet knows food and cooking are icebreakers for anyone, especially teenagers. Baking cookies or making Rice Crispy Treats gives the young people something to focus on, an activity in which to participate. Conversation usually starts with “my mom does it this way,” or “I remember my grandma used to crack eggs with one hand.” Very quickly, the teens open up. Janet’s open and caring personality is just laid back enough to make conversation safe.

Janet is still known to her former students, a few of whom work at Huckleberry House, as Ms. Soltis the middle school English teacher. When she comes to Huck House to bake with the teens, she brings sugar, flour, eggs, chocolate chips, and years of wisdom and expertise talking to teenagers. Her calming presence is something lacking in the lives of many Huck House youth.

At her core, Janet cares about the future of the young people in Columbus. Ten years ago, she started a scholarship fund to support young women in Huckleberry House programs. Since then, seventeen young women have received Homer-Soltis Scholarships. Most recipients are clients in our Transitional Living Program who are working hard to learn all the skills they will need to live independently after graduating from the Huck House program. Education is a big part of future success, and Janet wanted to be sure cost was not an obstacle for any young woman who wants to be in school.

Janet also loves dogs and is currently training her second therapy dog Sam. Eventually, he and Janet will visit nursing homes and other places that welcome therapy dogs. We are anxious for Sam to finish his training so he can come with Janet to Huck House.

Huckleberry House nominated Janet Soltis because she sets an example of valuing all young people. Janet was chosen as one of 20 WBNS-10TV and Lifeline of Ohio 2019 Jefferson Awards Finalists out of the 152 nominated. This is a distinguished honor and one which carries with it the distinction of the highest ideals and achievements of public service in this country. Read more about the Jefferson Awards and 2019 winners here.

Give Yoga Gives Back to Huck House

GIVE Yoga exists to build community around yoga for the good of the individual and the good of the world. GIVE Yoga is committed to Giving Yoga, Improving Strong Communities, and Developing Leaders. To fulfill this commitment, Huck House has been chosen as a partner nonprofit to which they will provide yoga to our transitional living program clients.

We envision that a practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness will give our clients a new healthy coping skill. A lot of our clients suffer from sleep issues and unhealthy habits. We hope that the new program will support healing. Additionally, we hope to see some of our clients feeling inspired by the physical health benefits of yoga as an exercise, and feel more driven to continue to invest in their own physical well-being. 

 

Give Yoga funding will ensure up to 12 classes taught by Cecilia Shanahan, a Registered Yoga Teacher and Qualified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher. She will focus her practice on our young women in our transitional living program who are victims of domestic violence as well as our young expecting mothers.

 

Huck House Youth Outreach Program: Helping Young People Gain Access to Housing

Our five-member youth outreach team has added to the list of ways they can help young people. They were recently authorized by the Community Shelter Board to certify homelessness. Without this certification, young people have a hard time accessing alternative housing such as rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing. Usually,  individuals must stay in an adult homeless shelter in order to be added to the list for housing options.

According to YOP manager Kyra Crockett-Hodge, many young people experiencing homelessness prefer not to go to adult shelters for many reasons: they prefer to be with their peers, they are afraid of theft, and they generally feel vulnerable in adult shelters.

Knowing that many young people do not use adult shelters, the Huck House YOP team offers a different entry point for accessing housing.

“We know that young people are more likely to accept guidance and help from people they trust,” said Rebecca Westerfelt, Huck House’s executive director. “One of the strengths of our YOP team is that they build relationships with youth going through difficult times and can offer appropriate help.”

Bexley and Wellington SLEEP OUT!

April is the month to SLEEP OUT! Beyond the 2nd annual Sleep Out! taking place on Friday, April 12th at COSI, Huckleberry House’s proven programs will benefit from sleepers at Bexley High School and The Wellington School. Read below to learn more about these two upcoming events helping to end youth homelessness in our community.

Bexley High School Sleep Out!

Q&A with Anna Schottenstein, Bexley Teacher

  • Why are you hosting a Sleep Out at Bexley High School?
    • We are hosting the Sleep Out at Bexley High School because it is important for students to be empowered to make a change in their community, become educated about local issues and teach others, and become more active in the community without just giving money. This provides students with experiences they will not have in a classroom but are essential life lessons.
  • What will the event look like at Bexley?
    • Throughout the night about 150-200 students will attend the sleep out. We will have music, movies, s’mores, a cookout, games, activities and various ways to raise money for the Huck House. We will also do a collection drive to get high need items. While students will be having a lot of fun at the event, we also spend a significant amount of time reflecting on how fortunate we are to only sleep outside for one night and have nice homes and loving families to return home to every other night.
  • What is your goal for the event?
    • Our goal for the event is to raise awareness for homelessness in central Ohio, while also having a great experience. Students plan and organize all aspects of the event preparing them to be the leaders of tomorrow. We also hope to raise $5,000 for the Huck House.

The Wellington School Sleep Out!

Q&A with Max Thesing & Katz Kadlic, Seniors at Wellington

  • Why are you hosting a Sleep Out at Wellington?
    • We are hosting a Sleep Out at Wellington to raise awareness for youth homelessness in central Ohio. We both attended the first annual Sleep Out! last year and were inspired to host our very own.  It was an incredibly uncomfortable experience and no one should have to go through being homeless.  We believe hosting the Wellington Sleep Out is a great way for the our community to experience being homeless to an extent.
  • What will the event look like at Wellington?
    • The Wellington Sleep Out will be similar to the Huckleberry House Sleep Out. At Wellington, we will be sleeping outside to create an uncomfortable environment.  The two of us will give an informational meeting inside of the school before going outside.  There will be various activities to do such as watch movies regarding homelessness, play board games, etc.  The next morning, we will be providing people with breakfast food and packing up the event.

  • How are you raising awareness for the event?
    • We are making announcements, hosting a guest speaker, creating a website, and selling t-shirts.  The two of us have made many announcements to the high school during morning meeting for those who are interested in attending the Sleep Out. We also hosted guest speaker Kyra Crockett-Hodge.  Kyra is the head of the youth outreach program at Huckleberry House.  She spoke about what she does at Huckleberry House and her experience at last year’s Huckleberry House Sleep Out.  We created a website with general information about the Wellington Sleep Out. We are accepting donations to Huckleberry House on our website and selling t-shirts.

 

  • What will you do with all the funds raised?
    • We will be donating all of our proceeds to the Huckleberry House so they can continue to do the incredible work they’re already doing in the central Ohio community.