Since 1978, First Step has been working for peaceful families and safe communities in Wayne County, Michigan.

First Step is a non-profit agency in Wayne County providing comprehensive services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

First Step provides free and confidential programs designed to help survivors of violence overcome the lack of intervention and support, the feelings of powerlessness, isolation, physical danger and fear, and the financial, emotional and cultural barriers that victims of violence often face when seeking help.

24-Hour Helpline (734-722-6800)

The 24-hour help line is a core service at First Step. For many, it is literally a lifeline. Specially trained First Step staff and volunteers provide crisis intervention, support, information, and safety planning to survivors who call our 24-hour help line.

Information and Referrals

Providing critical information and referrals regarding housing, legal assistance, counseling, temporary emergency housing, transportation, and health care is a large part of First Step’s work.

Community Education

First Step believes that prevention is a key component to ending violence in our communities. First Step staff members present to schools, businesses, religious organizations, medical personnel, police officers, and civic groups. Topics range from the effects of violence on children, to dating violence, domestic/sexual assault myths and facts, and community resources. Click here for more info about our Outreach programs.

Transitional Housing

The Transitional Housing Program provides full rent subsidy and support while helping survivors build a credit history and skills to obtain and maintain permanent housing.

Emergency Shelter

When home is no longer a safe option, First Step provides emergency, short-term housing for victims of domestic and/or sexual violence and their children. Family Advocates work with residents to assist them in meeting their goals. Residents have the opportunity to participate in vital services, such as individual and group counseling, safety planning, medical attention, housing referrals, and educational and recreational activities for children.

Crisis Response

First Step staff and volunteers, on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, respond to victims of domestic/sexual violence at local emergency rooms, police stations, and schools. Survivors receive immediate crisis intervention, clothing, support, safety planning, and links to First Step and other vital services.

Children’s Advocacy and Prevention Programs

Children ages 3 through 19 are provided individual and group counseling sessions to overcome the effects of witnessing violence in the home and, in some cases, the effects of being victimized directly by physical or sexual abuse. First Step also recognizes the need for fun and recreation. Through volunteers and staff, First Step provides recreational activities such as field trips, craft activities, holiday celebrations, birthday parties and more for the children and adults in our program.


First Step provides food, toys, clothing, birthday gifts, gift cards, books, school supplies, diapers, household goods, transportation and many of the other basic needs to help survivors in transition.

A survivor room at the Karen Wilson Smithbauer Center in Wayne
A survivor room at the First Step shelter

Community Legal Response/ Lethality Assessment Program

First Step Community Response Project Survivor Advocates help victims who are identified through police departments and courts throughout Wayne County. In several communities, Survivor Advocates work with a designated domestic violence prosecutor and detective to respond to the crimes of domestic and sexual violence. Survivor Advocates contact the victims of these crimes just after the police report is filed. They focus on assessing lethality, making safety plans, and explaining the criminal justice process and the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence for to support adults and children involved throughout the prosecution process. Referrals are also made to other First Step programs, as well as pertinent outside resources. In addition, First Step provides in-court victim advocacy and support through free legal clinics.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocacy Programs

Individuals and families who live in the community have the opportunity to participate in one-on-one counseling and support groups. Survivors of domestic and sexual violence learn about the dynamics of abuse and how to advocate for their own resources and needs. They are given the space to discuss the emotional impact of their situations. Groups allow survivors to share their stories and find strength in connecting with others, who sometimes become life-long friends. Nonresidential sessions are available in four sites: Plymouth, Wayne, Lincoln Park and Detroit.

ARk (Animals Receiving Kindness)

The ARK Building allows survivors to bring their pets into shelter. The building features four dog kennels, four cat kennels, an outdoor dog run, four outdoor dog pens, a cat play area, a family visitation area, a laundry/storage area and a restroom. The ARK is an important resource to remove the barriers that keep survivors from leaving for fear that their pet will be harmed or killed as a result of the power and control that often occurs in domestic violence situations.