Mariners Inn SHE program shelters and empowers at-risk young women

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The girls in the Mariners Inn SHE program have gone through tough times.

"A lot of obstacles, school drama, everything."

Dark times. "Depression, I was going through a tough time not open get along with people."

An unstable home life. "My father was an addict."

With nowhere to turn. "Homelessness, I didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't know what to do."

On any given day in Detroit, studies show 5,000 Detroiters struggle to survive poverty and homelessness. About 25 percent of that population are 18 to 24 years old.

Finding them a place to stay or a job was only a Band-Aid fix. Carina Jackson of the Mariners Inn, a shelter and drug treatment center, learned they first had to get to the root of the problem as teenagers.

"We couldn't understand why they weren't coming to work on time, coming dressed properly, and started to have a conversation and realized many of them carry trauma from years and years of being in a household where someone was a drug addict or they were homeless," Jackson said. 

That's when Jackson created the SHE program, a prevention program for at-risk girls and young women. It helps them become Strong, Healthy and Empowered. 

The SHE program serves many of the daughters of the men who broke their addiction, but sadly damage had already been done.

"I would not be where I am right now," said Shayla Cunningham. "I can see things wouldn't be as they are good. The SHE program has helped me so much through my mental health thing. There is not a lot of help in our community. We are going through generational traumas that it's kind of hard to break, and the SHE program helps us break everything."

Detroit's Jessie Hubbard Neighborhood Center is one of the locations where the girls ages 14 to 21 go to help break those barriers.

Program Coordinator Chemere Kimpson says they learn life skills, receive therapy, exercise, education, a place to stay, transportation and the tools they need to graduate and work.

But more than that, it provides a sisterhood, a family, that makes the girls feel safe.

"I had to build that trust over time and now I am able to communicate," said Kimpson. "I had some girls tell me I don't trust women, I don't like them and now we are like a family.

"To see how much they have grown; in just the two years I have been with them in the program is truly a blessing. And it humbles me in a way."

"I learned how to communicate," Tamia McGee said. "Open up, not be afraid; be open, outgoing." 

"Since I have been in the group, I have worked every summer at the same place and now I am hired in, now I am really working for real," Arreona Hardman said.

"When they got me in I was happy because I was like now I have something to depend on," Jemica Stewart said. "Every day when I come home, I don't have to worry about where am I going to go today, when am I going to eat next? Also, their transportation is awesome."

"If you aren't removing barriers you are setting them up for failure," Jackson said. 

But even if they do fail, through this program the girls have become strong enough to overcome their most difficult times.

"It is my way of saying that I am a black queen," Cunningham said. "And no matter how tilted my crown will be, it will never come off. That I will always be fine with sisterhood and family."

There are some grants but the program is mainly run by donations - and the annual fundraiser The Tilted Crown Affair is scheduled for next month. You can learn more online here