A Safe Haven

North Allegheny’s Sharing Place offers supplies and support to anyone who may be facing financial or home-life struggles. Yet despite the turmoil of the pandemic, few have made use of its resources.


photo by Jess Daninhirsch

Mrs. Tengowski (left) and Mrs. Large stock the shelves of the Sharing Place, located on the second floor adjacent to the library.

Michelle Hwang, Features Editor

Tucked in a corner of the school is a room lined with shelves of canned and instant foods, clothes, deodorant, soap, female hygiene products, even dresses for school dances. The room is stocked with careful consideration of a high schooler’s needs and is open to the North Allegheny school community. 

It is the Sharing Place. 

The inspiration for the room, located on the second floor adjacent to the library, came from Mrs. Tyler Large, one of NASH’s emotional support teachers.

“It is a place where students who are in need, whether it be homelessness or financial need, or they just aren’t being supported in a way they should be supported, can go and get any kind of supplies,” Large said.

The Sharing Place began three years ago when the emotional support staff learned of a few NASH students who were in dire need. 

“We’ve had a couple of students in the past who were actually homeless and the teachers would come together and try to financially support them,” Large said.

Nationally, the number of elementary and secondary school students who are homeless for at least a period time is disputed, though even the lowest estimates are causes for concern.  At NASH, Large decided to take action.

“We thought [that] instead of just putting that on a few teachers, why don’t we open up to everyone? If we know of these students, there has to be more of them in the building,” she said. 

Everything about the Sharing Place is crafted and supplied for those who use the space. Even the name was carefully created with students in mind. 

“It started off being [called] the Helping Closet, but some of the students who were being helped through it said that [the name] had a negative connotation. So it’s now the Sharing Place because it feels better to share with someone,” Large added. 

The resources of the Sharing Place are not limited to students at NASH. Any student in the district who finds themselves in need of extra assistance is welcome. 

Launched three years ago, the Sharing Place still remains relatively unknown to the student body.  (photo by Jess Daninhirsch)

“We put together this room to help the masses,” Large said. “So if we get word that somebody in a different building needs supplies, we can either send it to the other building or they can come up and ‘shop.’”

Through its short life so far, the Sharing Place has already made a positive impact on the NA community. 

Mrs. Rachel Tengowski, a NASH social worker who assists Large with the project, remembered a time when one of the utilizers of the Sharing Place expressed their gratitude to her. 

“I had met a parent of an elementary student who was just so thankful,” Tengowski said. “She sat outside in the parking lot, talking with me for 15 minutes about how thankful she was that this opportunity existed in the district. She just wasn’t making enough to care for all the needs that existed, and so this was a point in time where she just needed a little bit of supplement.” 

Despite its good-hearted purpose, the Sharing Place remains relatively unknown to the NASH student body and staff, despite the fact that the COVID-19 brought about a spike in need. Across America, 26 million people lost their jobs in just the first few weeks of the pandemic, and the shelters, youth centers, and soup kitchens that many homeless youth rely on shut down or did not run at full capacity. 

“Here’s the problem: There probably is an increased need, but because life has been so chaotic, I don’t think people know it’s here,” Large said. 

Now, Large and Tengowski are looking to spread the word about the Sharing Place and distribute its holdings to anyone who might need them. 

For students who may feel apprehensive about revealing their situations, the entire process can be done so that nobody else knows. Students can reach out directly to either Large and Tengowski (in room 245) , or through a trusted adult in the school.

The Sharing Place stocks everything from personal hygiene goods to dresses for school dances. (photo by Jess Daninhirsch)

“We will come up with plans to allow things to be done discreetly,” Large said, whether that means going to ‘shop’ at the Sharing Place after school when contact with other students or staff is minimal or by preparing a package of pre-communicated supplies for students to pick up.

More than anything, Tengowski and Large hope that students who are struggling will reach out for support. 

“We don’t ask anyone [for] proof of income,” Tengowski said. “You just have to let us know that you’re in need, and we’ll help you.”