Not every teen eats three meals a day, dons a hoodie when cold, or sleeps in the comfort of a home. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly a quarter of all homeless persons are under 18.
The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) will hold a clothing drive the week after April 15, its Day of Silence. The club underwent a “reboot year” last year, senior and co-president Spencer Kociba said, but is now ready to give back to its community.
“The GSA has been rebooted like six or seven times in the history of Mason High School,” Kociba said. “But I think we finally found a group of kids who are willing to step up and work for the club.”
After creating a mural for the Trevor Project last year, the GSA decided to continue its service with a clothing drive in hopes of reaching the LGBT community, senior and co-president Lauren Zell said.
“It was a suggestion last year, and we wanted to make it specifically for trans-kids who couldn’t afford clothing to fit their gender identity,” Zell said. “But we found a homeless youth organization in Cincinnati, the Lighthouse organization. Because LGBT youth are at high risk for being homeless, we know that no matter who it goes to, it will be helping our community.”
The Williams Institute reported in 2012 that approximately 40 percent of homeless teenagers identify as LGBT. Lighthouse Youth Services, to which the clothes will be donated, has been working in the Cincinnati community since 1969 and offers a variety of services to children and young adults in need, including housing, mental health counseling, foster care, adoption and more.
Kociba said the clothing drive and the partnership with Lighthouse resonated with the GSA as a method of outreach because of its personal impact.
“We wanted to do something more than just write people a check, and we figured that clothes were a lot more personal to donate,” Kociba said. “When you’re homeless, you can’t afford food, let alone clothes. We thought it was a better way to serve the community.”
Zell said because of limited warehouse space, the club is looking for mostly spring and summer clothing, which teens will be able to use most readily.
“The week of the fundraiser, we will have a box for the donations at the end of every pod in the first floor,” Zell said. “We can leave whatever we need in there, and at the end of the week, we’re going to take it all and take it down to their warehouse in Cincinnati.”
The club does not have a numerical goal for donations, but merely hopes to make a difference.
“We don’t have a specific goal; we just want to make sure we have an impact on our city,’’ Zell said. “We’re really glad it’s a Cincinnati-based organization because it’s important to have something local.”