Why Detroit? Why Now?

Detroit has been historically underserved when it comes to resources and support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Despite being a vibrant and resilient city, Detroit has faced numerous economic challenges and social disparities over the years. These factors, coupled with the high prevalence of intimate-partner and sexual violence, have created a pressing need for comprehensive services within the city. Existing resources, including shelter beds, have been scarce, leaving survivors without a safe haven in their own communities.

We turn away 200 families a month looking for shelter, this is more than just individuals and does not account for the exact number of people. Our current shelter has housed 52 adults and 95 children, totaling 7,489 nights. We have taken 3,191 helpline calls from clients and roughly 20% of these individuals are Detroit residents. We currently have, and have had for the last six years, a criminal court advocate supporting survivors out of 36th district court.  We have an advocate empowering clients and assisting in breaking down barriers at our office space at the Block on Cass Park, as well as our personal protection order advocate assisting survivors submitting PPO’s to the court. In the past 6 years alone, over 9,000 Detroit-based survivors have received services from First Step. This goes to show the need for the city of Detroit to have shelter space for those fleeing domestic and sexual violence, and the additional support outside of just housing individuals and their families.

By opening a second shelter in the heart of Detroit, First Step aims to address this critical gap and provide accessible support to those who have been disproportionately affected. The diverse population of Detroit deserves a safe and secure environment where survivors can find refuge and begin the healing process. By locating the shelter in the city, First Step recognizes the importance of proximity, as survivors may face additional barriers, such as transportation limitations or fear of leaving their communities.

Establishing a shelter in Detroit sends a powerful message of empowerment and resilience to the community. It demonstrates that no survivor should be left without the vital resources needed to escape violence and rebuild their lives. By increasing the availability of shelter beds, First Step can extend its reach and impact, ultimately helping to break the cycle of violence that has plagued many individuals and families in the Detroit area. This is our effort to try to mitigate and end the bed shortage in Wayne County.  First Step will be the only comprehensive agency in the state with two shelters, as well as the only comprehensive agency in Wayne County with a shelter in Detroit. This shelter space in Detroit will allow First Step to triple our capacity; adding 21 additional client rooms. We will also have a community room, children's play spaces, a community kitchen, and spaces designated for holistic healing and hair care.

The second shelter's presence in Detroit will not only provide immediate safety and support to survivors but also foster community awareness and education about domestic and sexual violence. It will serve as a symbol of hope and solidarity, inspiring others to come forward, seek help, and actively engage in the prevention and eradication of these crimes. By investing in the well-being of the Detroit community, First Step is taking a crucial step towards ensuring a brighter future for all individuals impacted by domestic and sexual violence in the area.

To learn how you can contribute to this vital project email First Step's Detroit Philanthropy Officer, Tanesha Weems, tweems@firststep-mi.org.

About the Samaritan Center

Samaritan Center is a unique blend of organizations who have a history of service to the disadvantaged and are committed to the continuing redevelopment of Detroit’s east side. This joint venture involves Holy Cross Services, a Michigan-based 501(c)(3) public health agency, and SER Metro-Detroit, a community-based organization providing numerous education, training and employment programs, and economic development for Detroit residents and their families. You can learn more at https://samaritancenterdetroit.org/

First Step will be leasing space from the Samaritan Center to establish the shelter. Many of the outside services that First Step's clients utilize are also located within the center providing a unique opportunity to partner and provide extended services to survivors.

take a virtual tour of first step's space