Home for unhoused artists established in northwest Detroit

Posted on The Detroit News by Louis Aguilar on Dec. 18, 2023

Tommy Garrett has had a trailblazing career. He was among the first Black male models to be featured in top fashion magazines. He’s been a successful jazz musician and starred in a Broadway musical.

And years ago, due to an illness and a mugging, Garrett at one point was homeless in Detroit. After the mugging left him without any identification, the Neighborhood Service Organization, NSO, was one of the few organizations that gave him shelter and helped him get an identification card.

“They helped me out when out when no one else would,” Garrett said Monday. “I never forgotten that.”

And thus, the seeds of the idea for the Tommy Garrett House were planted. On Monday, the NSO, one of the largest providers in Metro Detroit working to address chronic homelessness, and The Right Productions, a Detroit-based entertainment and event service provider, unveiled the home that will help other artists dealing with homelessness.

The northwest Detroit home, owned for years by the NSO, is three-bedroom, split-level ranch that has been remodeled to house up to six artists at a time. The home aims to foster a nurturing environment for artists to live, build stability and create work safely.

More than 1,500 people in Detroit experience homelessness on any given night, according to the NSO. Beyond that number, nearly 6,000 households sought some type of housing assistance in 2022.

But a significant number of those 6,000 households are not officially considered homeless, said Linda Little, president & CEO of NSO. Many are in a “continuous cycle of transition,” meaning they occasionally need shelter, Little said.

Shahida Mausi, president & CEO of The Right Productions, has witnessed firsthand the gaps in financial and mental health services in the creative community. “This is a dream,” Mausi said of the home.

One of the three bedrooms inside the Tommy Garrett House. The split-level ranch home will house up to six artists at a time.

Both Little and Mausi said they hope the Tommy Garrett House becomes a template for more housing solutions aimed at the creative community. “We are hoping this could be the start of something that really catches fire; to undergird the population that helps provides beauty in our city,” Little said. “Many of the people we house are artists.”

The NSO is still in the process of working out how it will decide who will be among the first to live in the Tommy Garrett House as well as other details such as length of stay. The rent will be nominal, Little added. The house is expected to have its first inhabitants early next year.


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