The Ruth Ellis Center (REC), incorporated in 1999, is a youth social services agency with a mission “to provide short-term and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.” As LGBTQ youth continue to be disproportionately affected by homelessness, the Ruth Ellis Center remains dedicated to ensuring that these vulnerable youth and young adults receive the services and inherent protections available to all citizens. While the Center emphasizes serving LGBTQ youth who are often ostracized, shamed, and denied services by other agencies, no youth, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation is turned away or denied services.
The Ruth Ellis Center currently operates four core services: (1) our residential housing program—Ruth’s House; (2) Second Stories Drop-In Center, providing low-barrier access to safety-net services like food, clothing, showers, laundry and case management; (3) Second Stories Outpatient Mental Health Services; and (4) Family Group Decision Making (FGDM). Through the application of positive youth development programming, facilitated psycho-educational peer support groups, structured mentoring programs and the provision of core and adjunct services, either on-site or through referrals, we seek to provide life-enhancing and life-sustaining services designed to improve the health outcomes of homeless LGBTQ youth and encourage thriving behavior.
The Second Stories Outpatient Mental Health Services program, housed in our Drop In Center, is a core service rooted in peer-reviewed research, which highlights the large numbers of LGBTQ youth who suffer from mental health issues as a result of the conflict, discrimination and violence they often face from family and society due to misconceptions regarding sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This program improves health and social outcomes of LGBTQ youth by providing a combination of mental health treatment modalities to youth in a safe space, using a culturally sensitive trauma- informed approach. As a CareLink provider, Ruth Ellis Center may provide individual, family and group counseling to youth and young adults age 7-30.
Ruth’s House, our residential housing program, is located in Detroit, a short drive from the Drop In Center. Ruth’s House is the location of our Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU) for youth age 12 to 17. The ITU is a private child caring institution that is licensed and contracted with the State of Michigan Department of Health & Human Services. Our ITU program serves young people in the foster care system by providing services in a home-like setting that meet the individual needs of the youth while they are in care. Currently, Ruth’s House may serve up to nine youth in foster care at any given time.
In October of 2015, REC launched a two-year pilot of the first intensive intervention with families struggling to accept their LGBTQ youth in the United States based on the Family Group Decision Making model. This initiative is designed to engage, preserve, and support families with LGBTQ children that are under investigation by Child Protective Services (CPS) and at risk for entering the child welfare system. In partnership with Wayne County Department of Health & Human Services, REC has provided training and support to more than 300 CPS workers to increase the likelihood that a child ages 6-18 will openly identify issues of sexual orientation or gender identity during an investigation. For families with LGBTQ youth that require on-going services after an investigation, REC will provide intensive long-term service (up to 13 months) in an effort to keep children safe, preserve families, promote acceptance and permanent connections and prevent long-term placement of LGBTQ children in foster care.
The young people served by REC experience significant barriers to accessing health services; including, 1) accessibility; 2) depression and anxiety as a result of multiple traumas; and 3) numerous social barriers such as HIV stigma, fear of rejection, and mistrust of mainstream health providers. There is a critical need for LGBTQ competent health services to improve their overall health and wellbeing.
To that end, REC has embarked on a $1.5 million capital campaign to establish the Ruth Ellis Health & Wellness Center. Construction began in February and will be completed by mid-July. Physical and behavioral health services will begin in August under a multi-year agreement with Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) School-based and Community Health Program and the HFHS Global Health Initiative. If you are interested in supporting the capital campaign, please contact our Director of Development, Mark Erwin-McCormick at Mark.McCormick@ruthelliscenter.org
The administrative offices and Drop-in Center are located at 77 Victor St. in Highland Park. The Center, founded in 1999, is a 501 ( c ) 3 nonprofit organization and receives funding from individuals, foundations, corporations, community groups, faith-based organizations, and the state and federal government.