REC to Build 43-Unit Detroit Housing Project to LGBTQ Combat Homelessness
By Jason A. Michael
February 19, 2020
The Ruth Ellis Center is planning to build a 43-unit mixed-use housing development on Clairmount Street just west of Woodward Avenue in Detroit’s Piety Hill neighborhood. The project is expected to take 18 months to build, and once completed, the building will be known as the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center. The goal of the program is to provide long-term housing stability to individuals experiencing chronic homelessness, in a setting that is intentionally inclusive of LGBTQ identities.
The RECC, for which there will be a groundbreaking this spring, will be the site of the center’s permanent supportive housing program. The new building is a collaboration between REC and Full Circle Communities, a nonprofit developer out of Chicago.
While organizers have said there will be certain emphasis on housing transgender women of color, they are quick to clarify that housing will be open to anyone 18-25 regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“While the Ruth Ellis Center specializes in providing trauma-informed services for LGBTQ youth and young adults, the PSH program will serve any individual referred through the Detroit Continuum of Care,” read a statement. “The Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center will serve as an example of how programs can meet the needs of a community, while also honoring the diverse experiences and identities of each individual it serves.”
Ruth Ellis Center Executive Director Jerry Peterson explained further.
“The core point is that the PSH project resident selection process will be governed by federal fair housing laws. All residents selected for 34 of the 43 units must come from the City of Detroit Continuum of Care for Homelessness Coordinated Access Model based on an assessment that permanent supportive housing is the most appropriate housing option for that person. The CAM is working in partnership with REC case managers to make the most appropriate referrals to the REC Center once the lease up period opens in Fall 2020.”
This will allow for the Center to route more trans women of color into the pipeline – and possibly the eight remaining units – and that’s good news to Lilianna Reyes, director of REC’s Second Stories program and executive director of the Trans Sistas of Color Project.
“I’m so excited that Ruth Ellis Center is building this housing program,” she said. “For so long our agency worked to help people find the best space for urgent and long-term housing. Evolving into an agency that centers the most marginalized is beautiful. Since the thought of this program, we wanted to make sure many LGBTQ young people have had input and helped shape the space.
“Through these conversations we wanted to make sure to have some focus on trans young women of color who seek services at the Ruth Ellis Center,” Reyes continued. “These voices are the most violently impacted and often need multiple support services. Their voices and support, along with other LGBQ youth, helped to really build and change the structure into a truly youth envisioned space.”
In addition to housing, a range of resources will be offered including a health and wellness center, integrated primary and behavioral health care, career training programs focusing on food service and cosmetology, a resource library and technology center.
Housing was always the primary goal of the Ruth Ellis Center from the time the idea for the center was first conceived by a group of local activists in June of 1999.
“We are very excited that this project brings the original mission to fruition 20 years after the organization was established,” Peterson said. “Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center will be a unique, state-of-the-art complex serving vulnerable populations that has the potential to become a national model.”
Find out more about REC and its services online at ruthelliscenter.org.