Detroit Officials Celebrate New $16M Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center for LGBTQ+ Youth

The Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center offers permanent supportive housing and a health center. A mural of its namesake, an early Detroit LGBTQ+ rights pioneer, was also dedicated today as part of the ribbon-cutting festivities.


Mayor Mike Duggan, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and Council President Mary Sheffield joined developers, Henry Ford Health and the community today to officially open the new Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center in Detroit’s Piety Hill neighborhood.

The 43-unit, 45,540-square-foot mixed-use development, located at 61 Clairmount St., is a collaboration between the Ruth Ellis Center and Full Circle Communities Inc. The $16 million ground-up development features 43 units of permanent supportive housing, a community health and wellness center, and community spaces designed to address barriers that LGBTQ+ young people experience in accessing housing and other vital services.

Founded in 1999, the Ruth Ellis Center has established a national reputation for quality and innovation in providing trauma-informed services for lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth and young adults, with an emphasis on young people of color, experiencing homelessness, involved in the child welfare system, and/or experiencing barriers to health and well-being.

The development – seven years in the making – will serve as a haven for LGBTQ+ youth who may have had to leave an unsupportive or unsafe living situation. The center consists of 32 studio and 11 one-bedroom apartments, 34 of which will be supported by vouchers that will cover most, if not all, of the residents’ housing expenses. Eight others will be offered at low cost (for residents earning no more than 30% of the area median income). The last unit will be occupied by a live-in peer support specialist. Amenities include a resource library and technology center; a career training and event space; a roof deck, an art studio, a private patio and raised beds for gardening, and an on-site space dedicated to support services provided by Ruth Ellis Center for individual and group therapy, as well as case management. Primary care providers and addiction and mental health counselors will also be available at the center.

“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,” Mayor Duggan said. “This 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.”

The center is believed to be the first of its kind in the Midwest. Though the focus will be on assisting Detroit’s LGBTQ+ community, no one from other sexual orientations who need the center’s services will be turned away.

“The new Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center is a significant milestone for Ruth Ellis Center, and more importantly, an example of how we must respond to the disproportionate number of LGBTQ+ young people experiencing homelessness nationwide,” said Mark Erwin, interim co-executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center, a nonprofit that serves LGBTQ+ young people 13 to 30 who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and other oppressive barriers to success. “Our mission is to create opportunities with LGBTQ+ young people to build their vision for a positive future.” 

The Ruth Ellis Center is named in honor of a Detroiter who, beginning in the 1930s, offered shelter and support “to those whose race, sexual orientation or both set them apart from the dominant culture,” the center says. A four-story mural of Ellis, painted by Detroit artist Ijania Cortez, graces the east wall of the center and was dedicated today after the ribbon-cutting.

Full Circle is a nonprofit developer and owner of supportive and affordable housing across the Midwest. It dedicates 75% of its earnings to provide supportive services at its developments, delivered through long-term partnerships with organizations like the Ruth Ellis Center.

 “We are honored that the Ruth Ellis Center trusted us with their vision in the development of this project. The Clairmount Center will become a model for other cities to create housing for vulnerable LGBTQ+ communities,” said Joshua Wilmoth, CEO and president of Full Circle Communities Inc.

Addressing a crucial need in our community

LGBTQ+ youth are a particularly vulnerable subset of Detroit’s homeless population. Up to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ+, and often face barriers to housing and wellness because of discrimination and rejection by their families or others, the Williams Institute found. Nearly 1 in 4 Black men between 18 and 25 who identify as LGBTQ+ have been homeless in the previous year, and LGBTQ+ youth have over twice the rate of early death among youth experiencing homelessness, according to a Chapin Hall survey.

“I am so proud that the Ruth Ellis Clairmount Center will be a place of safety, joy and belonging for our LGBTQ+ youth in the City of Detroit,” said Rep. Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat. “It was an honor to secure $1 million in federal funding for this vital center. Providing for and taking care of our most marginalized residents should be at the center of what government does on all levels, and that is exactly what we were able to do here. I look forward to continuing to be a partner with the Ruth Ellis Center and our LGBTQ+ neighbors.”

The City of Detroit’s Housing & Revitalization Department (HRD) assisted Ruth Ellis Center in receiving Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), $688,217 in federal HOME funds, $311,783 in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program. Land for the project was sold to the Ruth Ellis Center by the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

“The City of Detroit is proud to have helped the incredible teams at Ruth Ellis and Full Circle make this important project a reality,” said Julie Schneider, director of HRD. “We share the Ruth Ellis Center’s mission of providing safe, quality housing and services to those most at risk in our community and making Detroit a better place for all to call home.”

Providing access to affirming healthcare

The 2,000-square-foot Ruth Ellis Health & Wellness Center at Clairmount will be staffed by providers who specialize in caring for the LGBTQ+ community. Patients will have access to primary care, comprehensive sexual health services, PrEP, HIV treatment, gender-affirming hormone therapies and other critical services.

“At Henry Ford Health we understand the barriers the LGBTQ+ community has historically faced in accessing affirming health care,” said Dr. Jerome Finkel, chief primary health officer for Henry Ford Health. “We are committed to providing a safe, affirming environment in all our hospitals and clinics and are tremendously honored to expand on the services we currently provide at the Ruth Ellis Center.”

Residents of the Clairmount Center can choose how they access their care through Henry Ford; either virtually from their apartments or in-person at the first-floor Health and Wellness Center, an integrated space with Ruth Ellis staff offering behavior health services and art therapy.  


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