Columbus campaign aims to shine a light on youth homelessness

Destiny Higgins, once homeless, got help from the Star House. (Photo courtesy: Destiny Higgins)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Destiny Higgins was a child full of dreams and headstrong, too.

She says she told her grandparents at the age of 16 that she was moving out when she turned 18. And she did.

"I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew that I needed food and shelter and money, and I made that happen," she said. "I became a stripper, and I made money, and I liked it until I didn’t like it anymore."

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But that dislike let her down an even more troubling path.

"Once I realized I don’t like it anymore, then I asked one of the girls I was working with, how do you deal with this, how do you deal with the self-loathing feeling and the nastiness of people always staring at you, and she was like, here, try some of this, and she put her pinky up to my nose, and I had my first bump of cocaine, and then I didn’t care anymore," she said.

It was not the life Higgins had imagined for herself. Many times, she was homeless.

"I slept under the bridge that was right by the hospital where I was born at, so that was really ironic," she said. "I was also sleeping under bridges, in abandoned houses, in a tent, all kinds of places, and to this day, my family has asked me if I wanted to go camping, uh uh, that’s not for me anymore."

When Higgins was in her early 20s, she discovered she was pregnant. At two months along, she moved from Georgia to Ohio with her then-boyfriend. But that relationship quickly ended, and Higgins found herself in need of help in a strange, new place.

That's when she was taken to Star House, central Ohio's only drop-in center for young people and their small children. The agency offers a safe space, along with access to basic needs and resources.

"I think one of the best things that Star House does is that we help bring that (faith in the world) back and show them respect and let them know that and that we believe in them and they have every right to make demands on the world, and it helps make them whole again," said Star House clinical therapist Margaret DeLaurentis.

She has helped Higgins from the beginning, even picking her up from the hospital after she had her baby.

"We’ve been through the ups and downs of what happens with homelessness and have come through it," DeLaurentis said.

Now, at age 23, Higgins has her own place, a job, and will earn her GED in April. Plus, her daughter is now living a great life back in Georgia through an open adoption.

"I’m not where I want to be, but, if I can be here, compared to where I was three years ago, then I can only imagine what the world has for me," Higgins said.

She now mentors other young people and is a member of the Youth Action Board with the Community Shelter Board.

Star House is one of several local agencies teaming up for the #CBUSSEEUS campaign.

You can read more about that here.