Aaron Brown, now 21, was homeless for several years. It was not that he did not have a roof over his head on any given night, but he lacked the stability of any safe and affirming place to call home.
He came out to his mother when he was 16 years old. “I wrote her a letter,” Aaron explained. “My mom kind of always knew, but she was emotional about it. She said that it was okay, but not to tell anyone else. Eventually, I was pushed from my mom to live with my dad. Although they were accepting, it felt like I didn’t belong.”
“Then I went to live with an older brother who was homophobic. I had brought a friend home one day when we were waiting for a ride to pick us up, and he said that my friend had to stay on the porch, that he wasn’t welcome inside. It didn’t feel right, so I moved in with my aunt, but then she put me out. So I moved in with an older brother who is gay. It was pretty good there, but he got into an altercation with a friend of mine.”
Aaron did his best to remain stable during his school years. He attended the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences where we was a dance major. He served on the yearbook committee and was part of the marching band. “I was one of the first openly gay young men from my graduating class,” he said.
In 2011, stability finally came to Aaron’s life when he started coming to Ruth Ellis Center and entered the residential housing program. “In the program it was like being in a home, like a real home. We had chores and rules, and people that were like family in a way,” he said. “We had to be productive. We had to use time each day to work or to be out looking for work. We did skill building workshops. We cooked, we cleaned.”
And on top of it, Brown said, “being there gave us a space to really be ourselves.”
Due in large part to his experience at Ruth Ellis Center, Aaron was able to finish high school and move on to an apartment of his own. He also went from being a resident, to a volunteer, to an intern, to a staff member of the Ruth Ellis Second Stories Drop In Center.
“We make sure the youth check in. We serve food. We make sure the youth have anything they need. I also run “What’s T,” a group where we meet and have a monthly discussion topic.” Aaron said he feels his place at Ruth Ellis Center is to have a calm, steady presence for youth that need it. “I’m a really peaceful person and in our community that’s hard to find. I give them support they need and bring a positive influence.From an article written for Between the Lines by Crystal A. Proxmire.