The Downing Family Foundation
Supporting initiatives. Impacting lives.

The OZ

On one of the first Mondays The Opportunity Zone (OZ) was open, we had eight youth show up. Everybody ate, two took showers and two did laundry. We handed out clothes and emergency food supplies. Three kids walked in separately and said they had nowhere to go that night. They were homeless. We were able to find all of them a place to go that night and when we closed, we took them to their destinations. I went home that night so excited I could hardly sleep. I thought “this is exactly why we wanted a place like OZ.”

We have one youth that sleeps every time he comes. He is not able to sleep where he is now. He was chronically homeless for almost a year and just got his own place but many of our youth don’t do well alone. I am reminded how “safe” our youth feel at OZ and around SOS staff—they feel like they can let their guard down and rest.

I was on call one Tuesday night when I got a call from an 18- year-old who just got kicked out of his dad’s house. He had nowhere to go. I offered to pick him up and take him to the overflow shelter for the night and then look for a longer term place the next day. “Never mind,” I heard him say. I tried to get him to reconsider and assured him it was only for one night. Again I heard, “never mind.” He hung up. He had been using someone else’s phone so I couldn’t get back a hold of him. I found out a couple days later that he slept outside the night he called. He came to OZ that night and SOS staff met with him and got him into our overnight bed and informed him he could enter our transitional living program the next day. When I introduced myself to him and asked him how he was doing, he raised both arms in the air and said, “After tomorrow I won’t be homeless anymore!”

Thank you guys for making a way for these youth.  A way for them to get help. A place they can FEEL safe and let their guard down. A place they can find…opportunity.
Much appreciated.

Submitted by Risa Rehmert
Outreach /Safe Place Coordinator
Wichita Children’s Home

The OZ is a daytime resource center for homeless youth. It is operated by Wichita Children’s Home staff and volunteers and is located at 1157 N. Emporia in Wichita, Kan.

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” ~John Wooden, They Call Me Coach