Lamar Peoples is the outreach coordinator at the Star House, a drop-in center for youth experiencing homelessness here in Central Ohio.
Lamar’s has spent his career on the ground reaching out to people, and he’s put a lot of effort into something that has long been a mystery to me… politics. Generally, political news drives me nuts, but I’ve always wondered how politics actually works, and how people make a difference through the government.
His political career started off with grassroots outreach into the community, knocking on doors. October 9, 2012, met President Obama on the tarmac when he came into Columbus, Ohio, and was impacted by his presence. After the election, he became a super volunteer, canvasing through different neighborhoods.
And it gave him a first-hand perspective of what people really want from their government. People want clean air, a livable wage job, and access to decent healthcare. They want their kids and grandkids to have a good education.
One of his colleagues got a job at the statehouse, and he started hanging out with him… which gave him a chance to talk to local politicians of all background. He was such in the thick of it, he joined an internship in the Ohio House of Representatives. It really gave him a perspective of the state – it is made of 99 members, all representing various representations.
It’s interesting because, on the inside, all the politicians are getting along – they all have to work together. But then quite often the put a show when they’re on the floor… partly to keep their base in check, to show up for what their base has voted for them on. He also found it interesting how many different issues people represent, and how there is a lot of negotiating to address a broad range of issue.
Over time, Lamar got involved with AmeriCorps and realized he really loves the non-profit sector. He enjoys finding a mission and creating programming around realizing that mission. He really has this passion for going out, knocking doors, being that presents, working with politicians and talking about policy.
For a while, he went around and let people know about the work Habitat for Humanity does – telling people how they can build a house from the ground up, and get a 15-year interest-free loan… as well as the work they do to educate and help people learn how to be homeowners. Habitat is a great organization which doesn’t just provide housing but teaches people about how to be successful in their homeownership.
He went to work for Danny O’Conner, and found it really insightful working in the statehouse, but wanted more than just an administrative position, so around August of 2017, left to be the outreach coordinator at Star House – a local center for youth ages 14-24 who are experiencing homelessness. They provide access to food, clothes, counselling, workforce development, (even yoga). In 2018, they served 1,200 individual youths. There is an estimate that there are 3,000 – 9,000 in the Columbus area of these youth in any year.
He’s run for office, although missed the deadline to be endorsed by the Democratic Party, and without that endorsement, it is very difficult. But it’s also very challenging… as a young politician, you join a caucus, and a junior member of a caucus focuses largely on getting re-elected. It’s often based on seniority on who has the greatest voice, so after you’ve demonstrated that you can get re-elected, you slowly develop more and more capabilities to effect policy.
Best way to get involved?
“Think about what keeps you up at night. What’s on your mind about what could be better. Think about it, and about the party that supports it. Each party has local volunteer events – search in google, and Democratic Party in Franklinton County – and they’ll be eager to talk. Learn the issues and go from there!”— Lamar Peoples