On October 7, 2011 several therapists from Birmingham Maple Clinic, along with the clinic’s owner and director, Lori Edelson, visited Ruth Ellis Center of Highland Park, MI. Ruth Ellis Center is a youth social services agency that provides a safe place for runaway, at risk, and homeless youth. The mission of the center is “To provide short-term and long-term residential safe space and support for runaway, homeless, and at risk gay, lesbian, bi-attractional, transgender, and questioning youth.” Ruth Ellis center is one of three agencies in the nation dedicated to LGBT youth and the only center in the Midwest.
According to the staff at Birmingham Maple Clinic, estimates from the City of Detroit Department of Senior Citizens and Homelessness Coordination suggest that there are 1600 to 2000 homeless youth who do not receive services in Detroit on any one day, with LGBT youth being disproportionately affected due to scorn and shame from families and other service agencies who turn their back on this vulnerable population. Ruth Ellis Center provides services to these youth through two settings. First, the center houses a 5,000 square foot drop-in facility where homeless youth can access basic tools such as a safe space, food, clothing, showers, laundry, substance abuse screening, referrals to support groups, mental health treatment, victim’s assistance, and vocational and life skills trainings necessary for safety and survival. This program is open Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 9pm.
The Street Outreach Program and Drop in Center are often responsible for referring youth to the second program, Ruth’s House, a set of residential services located at 612 and 619 Philadelphia Street in Detroit. Ruth’s House hosts a Transitional Living Program (TLP) for youth age 17 to 21 and a Semi-Independent Living Program (SLP) for youth age 13 to 17. The TLP provides housing, meals, access to health services and life skills training for up to 21 months. The SLP services young people in the foster care system by providing a home-like setting that meets the needs of youth for as long as they are in placement or age out of the foster care system. In 2010, the Street Outreach Program/Drop-In Center serviced over 2,500 youth. During the same time, the TLP and SLP programs housed 24 youth in a 24 hours a day, seven days a week operation.
Therapists from Birmingham Maple Clinic met with Ruth Ellis Center leadership and staff to tour the drop-in facility as well as to speak to employees about their experiences working in this setting. Birmingham Maple Clinic therapists were moved by the work of the dedicated staff and the warm, family-like environment. Therapists from BMC and Ruth Ellis Center staff discussed the personal and professional needs of the staff doing this difficult yet powerful work and began to brainstorm ways BMC therapists may provide support and educational services on a voluntary basis to Ruth Ellis employees to buttress the services and support they are providing to this in-need population in Detroit.