By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
DETROIT – When homeless LGBTQ youth need help the Ruth Ellis Center is there for them. Now, the center is involved in several expansion projects, a winter outerwear drive, and a national project that will help them do more than ever.
According to REC Executive Director Grace McClelland, REC has applied for two licenses from the state of Michigan. One would allow the Center to open an emergency shelter; the other would allow the transitional living program to open its doors to sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds.
REC is ready to provide both services as soon as the licenses are approved, said McClelland, and added that she expected the approvals to come sometime in December.
In addition, in May REC will be opening a group home for state-placed LGBTQ youth.
“The state has very few resources for our kids,” McClelland said.
The combination of the emergency shelter and the group home will increase REC’s budget to $1.3 million in 2006. “A one hundred percent increase from last year,” McClelland said.
“We’re growing like a weed,” she added.
Even as they are growing to meet the needs of Detroit-area homeless LGBTQ youth, REC is also taking part in a project to help the community’s young people nationwide.
According to McClelland, REC will be one of six agencies working to create a National Gay and Lesbian Task Force publication on LGBTQ homeless youth. The publication “will talk about the problem, the need for services, best practice standards, and national policy legislative recommendations,” said McClelland, who added that even though 40-50 percent of the homeless youth in the U.S. are “our kids,” there are only four other centers in the country that are exclusively dedicated to young LGBTQs. Roberta Sklar, director of communications for NGLTF, said that the publication will be released in late May.
“We’re getting involved with the Task Force to do our part for all LGBT youth in the country – not just ours in Detroit,” she said.
Keep a kid warm this winter
The Ruth Ellis Center needs the LGBT community’s help providing warm outerwear and other services to youth this winter. REC is taking donations of new or gently used, clean, coats, hats and gloves, as well as cash to buy outerwear for young people in need. In addition, REC needs volunteers to help cook and serve Christmas dinner with and for their residents.
McClelland asked outerwear donors to remember that it is very difficult for the Center to have donated items cleaned, and added, “Thank God most of the gay community donates nice stuff.”
Outerwear donations can be dropped from noon – 10 p.m. at REC’s Outreach Center at 16501 Woodward Avenue in Highland Park. Mail checks to 2727 Second Ave., Ste. 158, Detroit, MI, 48201-2654. For information on volunteering call 313-964-2091.