The LGBT youth center in Michigan conducts outreach activities with dance ‘hooks’.

Student interns at Newell-Rubbermaid offices in Atlanta presenting information about a child car seat in a conference room.


The LGBT youth center in Michigan conducts outreach activities with dance ‘hooks’.

If you’re a homeless teenager, you’re probably gay, bisexual or transgender. If you live in the Detroit area, the Ruth Ellis center is trying to find you. The center, located in highland park, Michigan, takes an unorthodox approach to helping homeless gay youth – and starts with the dance floor, especially in the form of “fashion”.

“It all depends on your wrist and your imagination,” said 21-year-old dancer donnie Dawson. “You just need to make sure your hands are in tune with your imagination.”

Donnie is a regular at the Ruth Ellis center, and he suggests you pretend you’re holding a basketball and then rub it in the shape of a dummy ball. Fashion dance is like break dancing and ballet. But, if you need a quick reference, think of Madonna’s hit song “Vogue” in 1990, she was in the 1960 s and 70 s in New York City’s gay community sing by poor and working-class blacks and hispanics creation dance performances. Today, fashion is still about flipping, smugness. It is acrobatic, sexual, and sometimes in sports, it is very feminine.

In a large room upstairs in the center of Ruth Ellis, the floor vibrates — that’s how loud the house music is. Matthew Dawson, 22, was wearing sunglasses and dancing in a corner.

“I said that one emotion I put into my fashion could be anger,” he said. “I think I put it in fashion, so I don’t have to put it on something that is not constructive.”

Matthew says it’s not safe for him to dance in the outside world. In the same room, most of the dancers who dance with him are black and LGBT children.

LGBT youth fall through cracks.

According to the national association of homeless people, about half a million young people and young people under the age of 24 have been homeless for more than a week. Several sources, including the Williams institute, report that 40 to 60 percent of them are LGBT. When a homeless child goes out, he is likely to get involved in all sorts of bad things, whether he is gay or straight. This includes violence, sexual assault and prostitution, said Jessie Fullenkamp, director of the Ruth Ellis center.

According to Fullenkamp, homeless LGBT children are often kicked off by their families and sometimes face discrimination and hostility when they try to get help from formal organizations. That’s why a group of professionals created the Ruth Ellis center.

“Lawyers, teachers, social workers… See LGBTQ teenagers cracks – in all of these systems in our families, in our school and jobs – and realized that we really need to pay special attention to the community, “said Fullenkamp.

So the center always provides space for dancing.

“And then this is the hook that got a lot of young people,” Fullenkamp said.

After that, the center can associate them with advice, health care, coaching and clean clothes. These children need help: according to Fullenkamp, 65 per cent of them have sex for money or drugs or food.

Fashion family extends’ beyond any banquet hall ‘

Fashion dance is not only about getting children into the center of Ruth Ellis, it’s also a complex world of its own. Among them, people formed a team called “houses”.

“When this relationship is very close and very tight, it becomes a family… It goes way beyond any ballroom, “says Donnie Dawson. “If I’m stuck somewhere, I need some help, I can call you, you’ll be there.”

Downey believes that Lakyra Dawson, a 24-year-old transgender woman, is his lesbian mother. (likewise, Lakyra and Matthew Dawson consider themselves brothers and sisters.) Lakyra and Donnie are frequent visitors to the center. He USES his last name as his last name. She pushed downey and his brothers and sisters to continue their education, in part because of laceira’s high school dropout, who left home at 13 and spent 10 years on the street.

“It’s a lot of things that need to be understood, seen and done and experienced,” says Lakyra. “So my mistake, I use it as a rule book, don’t do it, stay away from it.”

Donnie says Lakyra has given him a lot of advice about his education and life choices. “I call her mom,” he said, “because the knowledge I get from her goes far beyond gay life.”

The relationship is significant for donnie yen, who died last year after his biological mother died.

Last year, about 4,600 young people arrived at the Ruth Ellis center. Its staff, said to provide a safe place to dance is part of their strategy of china-africa sense: the idea is that through dance, they can meet their children on the dance floor.


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