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The past semester, we participated in the STEAM Challenge, in which we constructed a

project to fulfill the overarching theme of Equal Opportunity for All. When we were at a mixer
for the challenge, we met a couple- Kristopher and Kristina- who had been working on
purchasing a house in the Golden Gate Community. They told us the inspirational story of how
Kristopher was a self rehabilitated ex-felon who was able to reintegrate back into society with
the strong support he received. Kristina was forced to be a single parent of four children during
the thirteen years Kristopher was in jail where she was able to overcome those challenges
through self-mediated art therapy and meditation. They wanted to create a way to improve their
community and so we came together with Kristopher and Kristina to develop the project
Wellness Home: 160 W. Goldengate. Our mission is to promote health and economic equity
by reducing disparities faced by the Golden Gate neighborhood and empowering them with
resources to build a sustainable lifestyle. The core principle that the project is based on is that all
individuals are equally entitled to important rights such as health protection and minimal
standards of income regardless of race, gender, age, economic status, social status, and
environment. Our project is based on four pillars: implementing a community based and driven
approach to address health and economic disparities, promoting self-efficacy by creating
sustainable opportunities for families, breaking down the cycle of intergenerational poverty
through evidence-based programming, and fulfilling our mission through collaborative and
interdisciplinary efforts.

In order to understand the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of the community, we


performed a community needs assessment through surveys with community members. We
avoided reporting bias by having Kristopher and Kristina carry out the surveys as they know
numerous of the residents. The questions include what are some strengths you see in your
community, which do you feel are the biggest issues your community is facing, what ideas
do you have to improve your community, would you be interested in participating in this
community house, would you be interested in helping run this community house.

From the community needs assessment, we analyzed what parts of the community the
members wanted to see change- the most frequent responses being lack of unity, mental health,
substance abuse, poverty, crime. We then asked what should be done within the community to
solve these challenges, the responses with the greatest frequency were to finish projects already
present without starting new ones, employment opportunities, healing and rehab services, and
increasing security and safety. These challenges are heavily influenced by systematic
discrimination on the basis of their educational level, race, gender, and socioeconomic status.
These challenges have a serious intergenerational impact on the community, and it is our goal to
break down this cycle.

In order to fulfill the communitys needs of restoration, healing services, increased safety,
and sustainable economic opportunity we partnered up with several community partners within
the city of Detroit. The safety aspect of the community is being addressed by the future
establishment of a neighborhood safety patrol, as recommended by Dr. Asabigi, as well as an
increased police presence requested by us, and a security camera system that will be put in place
after the restoration of the house. In order to restore the obtained wellness house into working
condition a partnership with Habitat for Humanity was forged. Habitat for Humanity agreed to
provide volunteers, furniture and equipment as well the man power required to rebuild our house
from its deteriorating conditions.

In order to provide healing services we partnered with Holly Feen, the Director of the Art
Therapy Program at Wayne State University. She agreed to provide us with volunteers that
would also help rebuild the house while focusing on making sure the house is rebuilt in a way
that facilitates art-based programming. Research has proven that art therapy can help ameliorate
anxiety, depression, substance abuse and addiction, and family and relationship issues. This
combined with the neighborhoods love for art made us choose this as one of our main focuses
for the wellness house.

Another significant problem the community expressed concern about was the lack of
economic opportunity which we found a solution through developing a t-shirt company within
the house. The t-shirt companys purpose is to provide opportunity for the people suffering from
unemployment to learn essential vocational skills and trainings. In addition, we secured future
vendors that would sell our t-shirts such as Ink Detroit. We also partnered with Southwest
Solutions in an effort to provide financial coaching as well as workforce development skills to
provide a employment pipeline to our communitys residents.

After understanding the needs and wants of the community, we worked to build a
community advisory board to oversee and advise us what actions to take in order to target the
needs of the communities. In order to be a community driven initiative it is imperative that we
allow community residents themselves to take ownership of this project. Therefore, we
conducted one-on-one interviews and recruited four residents into the board of directors. This
process ensured that the community was actively collaborating in any current and future
directions the wellness house will take.

Overall the 160 Wellness House was developed with the mission of promoting health and
economic equity by reducing disparities faced by our neighborhood and empowering them with
the resources to build a sustainable life. This promotes the objectives of the STEAM challenge
since we are utilizing an interdisciplinary method of using the fine arts in conjunction with
public health theories and models to create job opportunities while addressing health disparities.
Within our wellness house we are providing art therapy, workforce training and a safe
environment through our community partnerships. In the words of Paul Schimitz, The goal of
any effort should not be strong programs but strong communities- the only change that is truly
sustainable. We hope to create a sustainable model through this project that can be implemented
throughout the city of Detroit.