First Step envisions a community where respect, fair treatment, comprehensive support, and social justice are available to all survivors of domestic and sexual assault and their families. Since 1978, we have become a change agent in reducing domestic and sexual violence in over 35 communities.  Take a peek at our story…


First Step incorporates as a private nonprofit agency, providing advocacy and short term shelter.


First Step opens a 20 bed shelter in Wayne County and adds non-residential counseling services Downriver.

In December 1987, First Step purchases a new building, increasing residential capacity to 42.

Two years later, First Step adds Sexual Assault services, Assault Response and 24-hour on-call teams respond to sexual and domestic violence assaults.


First Step develops a non-residential Children’s Counseling program and expands legal advocacy for survivors to in-court victim advocacy.

In 1996, First Step becomes a leader in the STOP grant initiative. The collaborative effort becomes a model in the country.

A year later, our collaboration with Oakwood Healthcare System is established and a healthcare clinic is initiated in the shelter.

An outreach office is opened in Redford.

First Step expands the STOP initiative.

First Step receives a VOCA grant which allows us to expand community-based advocates to three additional communities.

In 1999, an attorney is hired, funded by DOJ, which specializes in family violence and receive CDH funding to begin The Peer Education Project.


“Keeping Kids Safe,” a third grade domestic violence prevention curriculum, is initiated in Wayne County and funded by BSBSBCN.

Later that year, “Keeping Kids Safe” evolves into a statewide train-the-trainer project.

In March 2001, HUD funding allows us to hire an aftercare advocate, to assist shelter resident’s transition towards economic and emotional dependence.


In 2002, First Step receives a special United Way grant that is given to proven parent-child interaction groups for families impacted by domestic violence.

In March 2003, First Step celebrates 25 years of providing services.

Two years later, we begin a Transitional Supportive Housing Program.

In 2008, we celebrate our 30th anniversary and start the McGregor project to better serve Allen Park, River Rouge, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, and Ecorse.

A year later, First Step opens the Karen Wilson Smithbauer Center, a campaign that began two years earlier.

In 2009, we start a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) program and the Wayne County Sexual Assault Collaborative.


In 2011, First Step begins residential services at our new location, which allows us to serve 50 adults and children nightly.

In 2012, we begin planning for a Healing Garden and Playground.

In 2014, First Step starts capital campaign for the ARK (Animals Receiving Kindness) and begins a Foster Pet Parent Program.

In July of 2015, we open a one of a kind, state of the art Healing Garden and Playground for our residential families.

That fall, First Step receives a grant from the McGregor Fund to begin a partnership with the Canton Police Department and instate a Domestic Violence High Risk Team.


In May of 2018, First Step celebrates 40 years!!

In November of 2018, First Step opens the ARK (Animals Receiving Kindness) Building that allows survivors to bring their pets into shelter with them.

In Spring of 2019, First Step expanded services to include a dedicated office in Detroit with a full time advocate for survivors.

In early 2020, First Step creates a new advocate position specializing in Personal Protection Orders.

In March of 2020 the COVID Pandemic forces all non-24 hour essential services to go remote. Virtual and telephone advocacy begins.

In October of 2020, First Step’s Speaker Bureau is established.

In 2021 and beyond, many services remain virtual, but all services remain available to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.