Center for LGBTQ+ youth breaks ground 'in the heart of the city'

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The Ruth Ellis Center and City of Detroit broke ground Friday on a $15 million new permanent housing development along Woodward for LGBTQ+ youth. 

Called the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center, the ground-up 43-unit, 44,000-square-foot mixed-use project at 61 Clairmount St. will have housing, a health clinic and community space.

Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center at 61 Clairmount St will be a ground-up 43-unit, 44,000-square-foot mixed-use project. The center’s namesake, an LGBTQ+ activist, is featured on the exterior.

“We chose this location for our new center in order to reach young people where they are, in the heart of the city,” Jerry Peterson, executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center, said in a statement Friday. “It also is located near the QLINE and other amenities that will help our residents get back on their feet as they get the service-rich housing and supportive services they need.”

The Highland Park-based nonprofit serves LGBTQ+ youth ages 13 to 30 who are experiencing homelessness and other barriers. The nonprofit, founded in 1999, is named for Ruth Ellis, a Detroiter and LGBT activist who passed away in 2000 at the age of 101. 

The new center will serve the particularly vulnerable group among Detroit’s homeless population. Up to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ+, according to the Williams Institute. They also face barriers to housing because of social stigma and discrimination.

When complete in January 2022, the housing component will consist of 32 studio and 11 one-bedroom apartments. Thirty-four units will be supported by vouchers to cover over most, if not all, of a resident's housing expenses. The other eight units will be offered at low cost for residents earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income. A peer support specialist will live in the last unit.

Amenities will include a resource library and technology center, career training and event space, roof deck and an art studio. The center's groundbreaking comes as the city continues to help develop and maintain affordable housing in the city.

One other recent effort to help combat homelessness in the city involves nonprofit Neighborhood Service Organization, which opened in September — Clay Apartments, a 42-unit permanent housing on the city's east side, the first of two phases of a $20 million Healthy Housing Campus.

“Our city must do everything it can to not only help the most vulnerable members of our community and to create safe spaces where everyone is welcome,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “My administration will continue to not only create more affordable and supportive housing, but also expand our policies and strengthen our connection with the LGBTQ+ community to build a stronger city that all of us are proud to call home.”

Ruth Ellis Center and Southwest Solutions will provide group therapy and case management onsite. Henry Ford Health System will provide primary and specialty care services for residents. Its Health Center will also be available neighborhood residents.

“We know that 80% of an individual’s health is connected to social factors like access to housing, which is why we are excited to integrate clinical care with this important program,” said Susan Hawkins, senior vice president for population health for Henry Ford Health System. Hawkins is also the health system's executive sponsor of the LGBTQ+ employee resource group, PRIDE. 

The City of Detroit’s Housing & Revitalization Department helped the Ruth Ellis Center receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Community Development Block Grants and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program. 

The nonprofit purchased land for the center from the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN