The Ruth Ellis Center (REC) is named in honor of the life and work of Ruth Ellis, a respected and loved member of the Detroit LGBTQ community. Ruth, who died in 2000, was and remains respected and loved for her longevity and endurance as one of Detroit’s oldest and proudest African-American lesbians, and for her many years of service to all people in need. During the 1930s and 1940s, Ms. Ellis provided shelter, physical support and spiritual affirmation to those whose race, sexual orientation or both set them apart from the dominant culture. The work we continue to do at the Ruth Ellis Center is built upon her model of responsibility to oneself and one’s community. We apply this model to the work we do for teens and young adults in our community.
REC, incorporated in 1999, is a youth social services agency with a mission “to provide short-term and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.” As LGBTQ youth continue to be disproportionately affected by homelessness, the Ruth Ellis Center remains dedicated to ensuring that these vulnerable youth and young adults receive the services and inherent protections available to all citizens. While the Center emphasizes serving LGBTQ youth who are often ostracized, shamed, and denied services by other agencies, no youth, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation is turned away or denied services. Furthermore, any youth who comes into our doors receives the highest level of services based on trauma-informed care, late adolescent development theory and best practices for serving runaway and homeless youth.
The Ruth Ellis Center currently operates three core service components: (1) our residential housing program—Ruth’s House; (2) Second Stories Drop-In Center; and (3) Second Stories Outpatient Mental Health Services. All current programming follows the National Child Welfare resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD) four core principles for adolescent transitional living programs: (1) positive youth development; (2) collaboration (3) cultural competence; and (4) permanent connections, as well as the underlying philosophical components of cognitive youth development, emerging adolescent development, and trauma-informed care. Through the application of positive youth development programming, facilitated psycho educational peer support groups, structured mentoring programs and the provision of core and adjunct services, either on site or through referrals, we seek to provide life enhancing and life sustaining services designed to improve the health outcomes of homeless LGBTQ youth and encourage thriving behavior.
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