DETROIT (FOX 2) - "If you help me, I'll help you the whole way and we can hold hands crossing the finish line," said Julisa Abad.
Abad helps lead a workshop on trauma recovery and empowerment. Her students, like her, are transgender women of color. People who have struggled to be accepted for who they are.
"For anyone - abuses of all kinds - whether it be psychological, emotional, religious, sexual abuse that stem from our childhood, really impact the way we navigate life " said Emani Love, a graduate of the program.
"It makes us feel that we have a voice after we get our mind clear, then we can go advocate for ourselves," said Danita Calhoun.
Emani and Danita are both graduates of the new program, just one of the efforts underway to give people a voice in a world that's often cruel to the trans community.
"Sixty percent of them experience homelessness - 40 percent of them are unemployed," Abad said. "The average life expectancy for a trans woman of color is 35-years-old. If you honestly think about that it's really sad."
Julisa says far too many can't find jobs and turn to prostitution which is part of the reason she's working as a victim advocate for Fair Michigan. She is working on behalf of the LGBTQ community and she knows all too well the violence her transgender community has endured.
In December Kelly Stough was murdered and a horrific attack on a sex worker on Woodward Avenue in 2017 who was shot and robbed. She survived - but many haven't.
In fact, FOX 2 first met Julisa in 2015 ago when she was speaking out on behalf of a transgender sex worker, Amber Monroe, who had been murdered near Palmer Park.
"A lot of trans women go out there and don't have support system, family, or employment," Abad said at the time.
Since then the city of Detroit has worked to better serve and protect and advocate for the LGTBQ community - appointing a police liaison.
Fair Michigan has partnered with the prosecutor's office to prosecute crimes against the community. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just signed legislation prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people in state hiring.
Locally Julisa has continued to collect coats for those in need in her community and now she's also working at Wrigley's Pharmacy - with four locations - they're committed to providing services for everyone - with a special emphasis on serving LGBTQ clients.
"Everybody deserves to be treated with respect and dignity - it's a basic human right," said Nebill Abdulla, the owner
For Julisa, it's progress for a community that so often faces rejection and discrimination. She says Detroit is slowly becoming a more open and welcoming place for transgender people.
"A lot of programs are helping - not just here at Wrigley’s but everywhere - there's just opportunities for trans woman that weren't there before," she said.
"We're definitely not where we should be and not where we're going to be," Love said. "But we're in a much better place than we have been historically."
"Trans people are just people," said Calhoun. "We're regular people we're everyday people. I understand that you might not agree - it's not for you to agree, just respect us."
To learn more about T.R.E.M. - the Trauma Recovery Empowerment Module, Contact: All Well Being Services, contact persons Quinton Stroud and Julisa Abad at (313) 924-7860.