Ruth Ellis Center

Named in honor of a resilient Detroit icon, Ruth Ellis Center works to create a supportive environment and community with LGBTQ+ young people

Ruth Ellis Center

Who We Are

Founded in 1999, Ruth Ellis Center (REC) has established a national reputation for quality and innovation in providing trauma-informed services for lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth, and young adults, with an emphasis on young people of color, experiencing homelessness, involved in the child welfare system, and/or experiencing barriers to health and wellbeing.

It is our mission, to create opportunities with LGBTQ+ young people to build their vision for a positive future.

Our vision is a world where LGBTQ+ young people are safe and supported no matter where they go.

Support Our Mission

Creating opportunities with LGBTQ+ young people to build their vision for a positive future.


A platform to explore topics through the voices of those continuing
Ruth Ellis' legacy

VOICES of Ruth Ellis Center was created out of a desire to stay connected to our local, national, and global community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through candid interviews with REC staff, youth, community partners, funders, and thought leaders from around the country, VOICES of
Ruth Ellis Center provides a platform to explore topics in a new way.

Listen to VOICES of Ruth Ellis Center on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Castbox, Breaker, Overcast, RadioPublic, or Pocket Casts.

Listen Now
Ruth Ellis Center Podcast

What We Do

As we’ve continued to grow and evolve, so have the ways we help our young people. At Ruth Ellis Center, we work toward our vision through a growing number of services and programs, that support the LGBTQ+ youth and young adult community.

From providing outreach and safety-net services, to skill-building workshops and HIV prevention programs, we are known for our unique approach.

For more information regarding our five core programs, see below or feel free to contact us directly.

Reach Out

Health & Wellness Center

Integrated Primary Health Services

Provided in partnership with Henry Ford Health System

  • Quick visits for general medical issues (sore throat, rash, ear infection, cough/cold)
  • Visits for longer term medical issues (asthma management, healthy weight, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.)
  • Vision and hearing screening tests with referrals
  • STD testing and treatment
  • HIV testing and guidance
  • HIV prevention services
  • Transition care for transgender youth
  • Birth control
  • Screening for need of emergency services
Integrated Behavioral Health Services

REC is contracted through Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network to provide behavioral health services.

  • Individual, Family & Group Counseling
  • Substance Use Disorder Treatment & Prevention
  • Case Management
  • Telehealth (phone or video sessions) available
Ruth Ellis Center | CARF Accredited
For more information regarding services available through the Ruth Ellis Health & Wellness Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact our Health & Wellness Center at (313) 365-3338

This program is made possible in part by:

  • Michigan Health Endowment Fund
  • Hope & Grace Initiative
  • The McGregor Fund
  • The Jewish Fund
  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • PNC Foundation

Drop-in Center

The Drop-in Center is a safe place for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans* and Questioning Young People ages 13-30 to simply be themselves and have a space to hang out with one another

Here Youth Have Access To:

  • Safer sex supplies
  • Hot Dinners
  • Food-to-go
  • Beauty Kit
  • Computer Lab and Free Printing
  • Free Laundry Room
  • Case Management*
  • Open Clothes Closet
  • Peer Support Groups
  • Ping Pong Table
  • Dance Floor
  • Help with Applications, Resume and Forms

REC will also help youth get connected to:

  • Ruth Ellis Health & Wellness Center
  • Family Preservation Program
  • Housing and Emergency Shelter
  • Finishing School
  • Finding a Job
  • Bus Tickets
Hours: Monday & Wednesday 3:00 PM - 8:30 PM, Tuesday & Thursday 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

*Individual Case Management Services will be scheduled Monday-Friday between the hours of 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM (based on youth availability)


The Housing Department at Ruth Ellis Center exists to connect youth and their families to safe and stable housing. REC currently operates two housing programs, Rapid ReHousing and the Kelly Stough Project. Clairmount Center, the Center’s permanent supportive housing program, is anticipated to open in July of 2022.

Kelly Stough Project

Program Description: The Kelly Stough Project, named to honor the memory of a lost member of the Ruth Ellis Center community, serves survivors of human trafficking who identify as LGBTQ+. The program design and implementation was informed and led by transgender women of color with lived experience. Through the provision of safe and stable housing, the Kelly Stough Project offers economic justice to historically marginalized communities.

Core components:

  • 6-24 months of rental support (including relocation costs, security deposits, utility assistance, start-up goods, etc.)
  • Intensive Case Management to connect participants to resources including but not limited to transportation, benefits, food, counseling, etc.
  • Connection to employment assistance

Who is it for?

  • Survivors of human trafficking who are 18 years or older
  • Human trafficking includes situations where someone is compelled into sex work or involuntary labor through force, fraud, or coercion.

Rapid Re-Housing Program

REC’s Rapid Re-Housing program helps LGBTQ+ youth (and eligible family members) quickly stabilize their housing so they can focus on pursuing their personal goals.

Core components:

  • 3-12 months of rental support (including relocation costs, security deposits, utility assistance, start-up goods, etc.)
  • Intensive Case Management to connect participants to resources including but not limited to transportation, benefits, food, counseling, etc.
  • Connection to employment assistance

Who is it for?

Individuals and families with a head of household 18+ experiencing homelessness.

Clairmount Center

The REC Center, opening in 2022, will be located on Clairmont Street in Detroit. The building will feature 43 apartment units, a café and beauty bar, shared community space, private resident common areas (lounges, patios, etc.), and a Health and Wellness Center where residents can access medical care, behavioral health services, and case management.

Core components:

  • Non-time limited supportive housing at the REC Center
  • Intensive Case Management to connect participants to resources including but not limited to transportation, benefits, food, counseling, etc.
  • Supported employment and skill building
  • Medical care and behavioral health services.

Who is it for?

Individuals 18+ experiencing chronic homelessness for one year or more.

For more information on REC’s housing programs, please contact us at:

For emergency housing services, please contact CAM Detroit at (313) 305-0311

Kofi House

The Center for Lesbian and Queer Women and Girls (CLQ) takes the needs and desires of every young Lesbian/Queer person seriously so that we can provide programs and activities that create healthy, smart, strong and active girls and women!

The CLQ provides advocacy/outreach and case management services through an equity lens to empower girls and young women between 13-30 years old.

The types of services provided focus on the following 5 areas to support the health and well-being of Lesbian and Queer Women and Girls:

  1. 1. Education: After school tutoring, internships, preparing for college and/or vocational training support, etc.
  2. 2. Workforce Development: Life skills, career exploration, leadership pipeline for women and girls
  3. 3. Health and Wellness: Integrated primary/behavioral health (including substance abuse prevention and education, intimate partner violence prevention/intervention, reproductive care, sexual health, and honoring femme/masculine and non-binary identity expressions of women/girls thru support groups
  4. 4. Family/Parenting Support and Inter-Generational Mentoring
  5. 5. Juvenile Justice and Foster Care Support services

Ruth Ellis Institute

Creating a world where LGBTQ youth can be safe and supported in all systems of care

The Ruth Ellis Institute centers the experiences of LGBTQ youth to inform and change nation-wide systems of care through education and evaluation.

We do this by:

  1. 1. Focusing on restorative collaboration with systems of care.
  2. 2. Supporting Family Preservation
  3. 3. Prioritizing evidenced-based practices for safety, health, and residential permanency.
  4. 4. Believing LGBTQ youth are experts in their own lives.
2018 Ruth Ellis Institute Achievements

Are you interested in a training opportunity for your organization or group? To help us understand your specific needs, please complete a Training Request Form.

For more information on the work of the Ruth Ellis Institute, please contact:

Ruth Ellis Quarterly Training

Are you interested in learning more about how Ruth Ellis Center executes its mission? Register for our Upcoming Training Here.

Jessie Fullenkamp
Director of Education and Evaluation
(313) 252-1950
Ruth Ellis Center

We are dedicated to embedding Racial Equity and Transformative Justice in all of our work.

How We Do It

Our Principles of Work shape everything we do. They are the driving force behind our programs and what makes Ruth Ellis Center successful and meaningful for our youth, but also inform how we “show up” for our staff and community alike.

Built on the concept of racial and gender equity, they create a strategic and imperative base that informs our work (full racial equity statement linked below).

For a deeper dive into our four principles, see below.

Racial Equity Statement

Trauma Informed Care

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) concept of a trauma-informed approach, “A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed: Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

A trauma-informed approach can be implemented in any type of service setting or organization and is distinct from trauma-specific interventions or treatments that are designed specifically to address the consequences of trauma and to facilitate healing.

Restorative Justice

“Transformative Justice responds to the lack of- and the critical need for- a liberatory approach to violence. A liberatory approach seeks safety and accountability without relying on alienation, punishment, or State or systemic violence, including incarceration and policing”


Restorative Justice, under the umbrella of Transformative Justice, is the primary tool used to implement this principle.

Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction refers to policies and practices that aim primarily to reduce adverse health, social, and economic consequences of high risk behaviors and benefits people engaging in high-risk behaviors as well as their families and communities.

  • An approach based on a strong commitment to public health and human rights;
  • A targeted approach that focuses on specific risks and harms;
  • An evidence-based and cost-effective approach which is practical and feasible;
  • An incremental approach that is facilitative rather than coercive and is grounded in the needs of the individual;
  • An approach that requires practitioners to accept youth as they are and avoid being judgmental;
  • An approach that requires open, honest dialogue between all stake holders;
  • An approach that recognizes the value of all persons regardless of what behaviors they exhibit; and,
  • An approach that acknowledges ANY positive change an individual makes.

RHYTTAC, Presenter, Cassidy, TC “Harm Reduction, Positive Youth Development, and Trauma Informed Care: What are they and How do they Operationalize in Youth Serving Programs” January, 2013. PowerPoint.

Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a comprehensive framework outlining the supports young people need in order to be successful. PYD emphasizes the importance of focusing on youths’ strengths instead of their risk factors to ensure that all youth grow up to become contributing adults.

Research shows that only four out of ten young people are doing well, and survey results from the Gallup Student Poll suggest that a majority of youth in the U.S. are not hopeful, engaged and thriving. Most often policymakers focus on the negative behaviors or risk factors that youth face and emphasize reducing statistics such as teen pregnancy or dropout rates.

Positive youth development focuses on building the positive attributes young people need in order to be successful. It emphasizes the supports and services necessary to help youth transition through various stages of their development. States and policymakers are beginning to use this framework to develop policies and programs that will ensure that all youth are ready for college, work and life.

National Conference of State Legislatures
Ruth Ellis Center

Our Board

  • Sharron Fincher, Chair
  • Corinne Rockoff, Co-Chair
  • Dan Hagerman, Treasurer
  • Sophia Chue, Secretary
  • Jawad Bandar
  • Barb Biess
  • Amy Bouque
  • Michael Einheuser
  • Matthew Guinta
  • Adam Hollier
  • Leo (Priya) Kikani
  • Jay Long
  • Marc Vanderburg
  • Josh Wilburn
  • John Zervos
  • Mark B. Erwin, Executive Director
Ruth Ellis Center In Honor of
Ruth Ellis
Detroit 1998

To get in touch with our staff or for more information about REC please use the contact form below.