Ruth Ellis Center

Our story starts
with Ruth.

Our History

Our mission and vision are inspired by the history and legacy of Ruth Ellis.

Our namesake, Ruth Ellis, was respected and loved for her longevity and endurance as one of Detroit's oldest and proudest Black lesbians.

Born in 1899. Self-identified as lesbian in 1915. In the 1940s, Ruth provided shelter, physical support, and spiritual affirmation to those whose race, sexual orientation, or both set them apart from the dominant culture.

Before passing at age 101, she saw the Ruth Ellis Center become a reality. We continue our work by building upon her model of responsibility to oneself and one's community.

With an emphasis on young people of color experiencing homelessness, involved in the child welfare system, and/or experiencing barriers to health and wellbeing, we work toward a common mission and vision inspired by Ruth.

Support Our Mission

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.

Our people make
us who we are.

Ruth Ellis Center has earned a national reputation for quality and innovation in providing trauma-informed servcies for homeless, runaway and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth and young adults of color.

What began as a 500-square-foot safe space in Highland Park, MI is now a multi-faceted organization, operating four facilities spanning Highland Park and Detroit.

In these spaces, we offer a continuum of programs that provide:

  • Permanent supportive housing and safety-net programs
  • Fully integrated primary and behavioral healthcare and case management
  • Skill-building workshops
  • HIV prevention programs
  • Family support programs

Thanks to on-going support from our board, employees, volunteers, and young people, we are able to continue achieving our goals, working toward our vision, and honoring Ruth's legacy.

learn more about our programs

Board Officers

  • Sharron Fincher [she/her/hers] Chair
  • Corinne Rockoff [she/her/hers] Co-Chair
  • Dan Hagerman [he/him/his] Treasurer
  • Sophia Chue [she/her/hers] Secretary

Board Directors

  • Jawad Bandar [he/him/his]
  • Barb Biess [she/her/hers]
  • Amy Bouque [she/her/hers]
  • Michael Einheuser [he/him/his]
  • Matthew Guinta [he/him/his]
  • Adam Hollier [he/him/his]
  • Leo (Priya) Kikani [they/them/theirs]
  • Jay Long [he/him/his]
  • Marc Vanderburg [he/him/his]
  • Josh Wilburn [he/him/his]
  • John Zervos [he/him/his]

Leadership Team

  • Mark B. Erwin [he/him/his] Executive Director
  • Tammy Bostick [she/her/hers] Chief Financial Officer
  • Luke Hassevoort [he/him/his] Director of Mission Impact
  • Mykell Price [he/him/his] Director of Talent, Equity and Inclusion
  • Jessie Fullenkamp [she/her/hers] Director of Education and Evaluation
  • Nazarina Mwakasege [she/her/hers] Director of Development and Advancement
  • Lilianna Reyes [she/her/hers] Director of Health Equity and Outreach
  • Kristin Wunderlin [she/her/hers] Director of Integrated Health
  • Maya Thottakath [she/her/hers] Director of Housing

Are YOU ready to follow in Ruth's footsteps and help LGBTQ+ young people to build their vision for a positive future?

Join us and grow your skills while making a positive impact in the community. We're innovating and expanding, and we need talented individuals like you to help us continue our mission.

Explore and Apply Contact Us Directly