Ypsilanti vintage boutique, The Muse Atelier, hosted a gala event to support The Ruth Ellis Center, an organization that helps at risk LGBTQ homeless youth, March 19.
The Ruth Ellis Center accepts donations, such as clothing and nonperishable foods for their pantry. The center was named after Ruth Ellis, a lesbian African American woman that did a impact work in Detroit as a community organizer. Ashley Kuroiwa, a Mental Health Professional at Ruth Ellis Center joined the organization after a good friend of her’s told her about it, and has been a part of it ever since.
“I’ve always wanted to work with LGBTQ populations,” Kuroiwa said. “They’re offering services in Detroit/Wayne county that you can’t find anywhere else. Really like an oasis/safe haven.”
The Ruth Ellis Center offer primary resources and programs. At risk youth can get anything from a shower, a hot meal, clothes, laundry, safe sex, primary health care services, and therapy, according to Kuroiwa. The center is not a shelter, but foster youth are an exception.
“We get referrals through CPS for youth who have been involved in cases of recent neglect due to either their gender identity or gender expression or sexual orientation,” Kuroiwa said.
A large portion of the youth that come through the center are transgender because trans-affirming shelters are lacking.
“Often people are forced to dress as their assigned sex in order to find somewhere to stay which is really sad,” Kuroiwa said. “Because being authentic to someone’s gender identity is so important to people that they would rather sleep on the streets than go to a shelter that forces them to express themselves as their assigned sex.”
Sarah Sherburne, set up this event with the owners of the boutique. She chose to donate to The Ruth Ellis Center to further help trans youth in Detroit.
“I wanted to find a organization that specialized more in trans rights and trans health and I was hoping to find somewhere a bit more in Detroit,” Sherburne said. “I’ve known that since this place is so beautiful and dynamic that I wanted to do some sort of fundraiser here.”
For the silent auction, Sherburne went around town contacting different businesses in Ypsilanti to get donations.
Riley Bender, an attendee at the event, is also helping LGBTQ individuals by working on a job search website with LGBTQ-friendly employers.
“It’s really difficult for trans people to find work and so it’s a good place for trans people to find safe spaces that they can go to work and know that they won’t be ridiculed,” Bender said.
Although the official launch hasn’t started yet, Bender is currently trying to get job seekers to create profiles so employers will see value in the website.
The Muse Atelier is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 to 5 p.m. The dresses vary from $20 dresses to one-of-a-kind designer pieces. The owners accept donations, purchase clothing or offer store credit.
More information on The Ruth Ellis Center can be found on their website.