September 27, 2018 (Second Wave Media) – This article is part of State of Health, a series examining health disparities, how they affect Michigan’s children and seniors, and the innovative solutions being developed to address them. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
Imagine being a gay or lesbian teenager thrown out of your home, living on the streets, finding out you’re HIV positive, and trying to navigate the healthcare system your own. Or imagine being a homeless transgender teen getting jeered at by other patients in the waiting room of a community health clinic.
That was the reality for many of the clients served by the Ruth Ellis Center (REC) in Highland Park, says Mark Erwin-McCormick, director of development and advancement for the center.
The organization’s drop-in center was already offering “low-barrier” access to food, showers, laundry facilities, recreation, and peer support. But when staff asked how they could better serve their clients, they found that the homeless LGBTQ youth they served were still facing significant barriers in accessing primary care services.