Words by Tess Becker
Safe spaces, where you can go and be yourself without fear of rejection, are incredibly important for the LGBTQ+ youth community, who are at a disproportionate risk of being bullied because of their identities.
Sometimes the lives that LGBTQ+ people are coming from are purely unsustainable and they need support or new housing, and that’s what a place like the Ruth Ellis Clairmont Center is for.
The Ruth Ellis Center began a foster program about a decade ago to little fanfare, not wanting to draw attention to themselves due to the overall acceptance or lack thereof of the LGBTQ+ community. In contrast, they recently held a ribbon cutting unveiling their new permanent supportive housing and services facility for LGBTQ+ young people. Hundreds of visitors and community members were joined by a parade of local and national politicians.
"Nationwide, up to 40% of all youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ, to combat this disparity Ruth Ellis Center has developed Clairmount Center," the organization tells Smiley News. "This 43 – unit permanent supportive housing program for young people experiencing chronic homelessness and living with a disability opened in September 2022. This facility offers integrated health services, career readiness and skill building programs, community spaces, and a youth advisory art therapy studio. Ruth Ellis Center considered all social determinants of health and wellbeing when deciding the location and design of the building."
The home is named for Ruth Ellis, a Black lesbian born in 1899 who always kept her doors open for queer people in need.
The building offers not just affordable housing but also health services and even built-in, but well-hidden safety features to keep the residents safe in what is becoming an incredibly polarizing climate for the community.
“Many of our LGBTQ community are at a higher rate of homelessness, exposing them to violence,” says Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib, who secured $1 million in federal funding for the Clairmount Center and was on hand for its opening. “[If] you live [at the Clairmount Center], you get the services you need, and the love that you need, and the public health access that you need.”