Unassumingly tucked away on Summit Avenue is a house known as the Common Ground. On the outside, it’s hard to tell what makes this house special, but look a little closer and the house’s nuances scream individuality.
You won’t find a locked front door, you won’t find anyone hastily shooing you out, and you won’t find too many things hidden away under lock and key. The things you do find almost don’t seem real. Free coffee, communal dishes, appliances awaiting use and open couches to sit back and relax.
Essentially, what you’ll find at 2154 Summit Ave. is a home away from home, and the people who live there wouldn’t have it any other way.
Common Ground is run though the VISION program and campus ministry. VISION or “volunteers in service internationally or nationally” promotes community service, self-sacrifice and opening up to new experiences among other things; aspects that serve as metaphorical foundation for the Common Ground.
History of the house
Common Ground originally started out as a home for Catholic studies students, but last year a group of VISION leaders took over the residence. The house opened up to the rest of the St. Thomas community, and what VISION members hope will be a long legacy of community embrace began.
The VISION group is poised to enrich society and is based upon six key themes: service, spirituality, simplicity, justice issues, cultural exchange and community.
“I think this house really has helped us live out [those components],” VISION leader Rebecca Cooke said. “This has been a blessing, a God-send for us to have this house.”
Four VISION team leaders live at the house this year, opening their home to anyone that needs it. They also hold annual events, tend to a community garden and run prayer services.
“Common Ground adds a very special component to the community of St. Thomas.” VISION leader and house resident Meg Veitenheimer said. “Individuals are able to come together at the house and feel the presence of community within the hustle and bustle of everyday life on campus.”
A ‘homey’ atmosphere
At Common Ground, hustle and bustle is replaced by solace and camaraderie.
Cooke, who is also a resident, said that the people at Common Ground wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Everyone that lives here loves having the company around,” she said. “ You can be yourself here, and that’s what’s so great about Common Ground.”
VISION leader and Common Ground resident Lauren Miller felt that having so many people around gives the a special atmosphere.
“We really try and keep it feeling homey in here,” Miller said. “It’s better than a dorm room or even a lot of college houses; it’s really a home.”
No strangers here
In an age where self-preservation typically trumps talking to strangers, Common Ground provides a unique way of life for St. Thomas students.
Common Ground’s fourth resident, VISION leader Amanda Leaveck, has never thought twice about feeling unsafe or uncomfortable during her time in the house.
“I’ve never been scared to live here,” she said. “It’s really a great atmosphere to live in if you like being around people. Living in a community house is perfect.”
Veitenheimer said that the reason she’s so comfortable with being so open is because the people that visit Common Ground never truly feel like strangers.
“Many college students are not used to opening up their home to so many strangers,” she said. “[However,] everyone who comes to the house has heard about Common Ground from someone else who has been connected to the house… this makes the people who come here not strangers, but rather a part of the community of Common Ground.”
For students looking to simplify their lifestyles, the people at Common Ground hope finding a little piece of mind is as easy as walking across the street. After all, the door is always open.
Ben Katzner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org