What is Auntie Na’s House?
Over the years, Auntie Na’s House has been many things. It has served as a food pantry, after-school program, clothes distribution hub, community garden, free childcare center, community meals space and temporary shelter. It is also a place where you can build relationships, organize for social justice, or just kick back and relax. More than anything, Auntie Na’s House is a place to call home. She’s got a large family, a big heart, and the doors are always open to those in need.
Six generations of Auntie Na’s family have lived in the house at 12028 Yellowstone St. and they have been working to uplift their community for decades. As a child, Auntie Na was raised by her grandparents, who began the community outreach by serving community meals, taking in kids after school, serving as a safe haven in the neighborhood. Over the years, Auntie Na and her family have helped raise dozens of children. Youth are nurtured and supported with tasty food, creative and artistic activities, and the distribution of warm clothing, school supplies and toys. Hot meals are served to the hungry and homeless, and the garden and pantry provide nutritious food for families in need. The house also operates as a safe space for women and children who need to leave dangerous situations. Auntie Na’s House is a place where everybody knows your name and you’re always glad you came. At Auntie Na’s House, love and affection are given to all who pass through the doorway.
This community outreach center provides a place of support and survival for those who are left unprotected by traditional government or non-profit social services. In their attempt to conform to the expectations of foundations and the criteria for government assistance, many institutions end up excluding and ignoring huge populations of marginalized people. Auntie Na simply tries to respond to the needs in her community, and maintains that “the only thing I turn down is my collar.” For her, this means supporting any and all who humble themselves to ask for her help. Her outreach program primarily supports low-income families, but also works with folks with developmental disabilities, those recovering from drug addiction, and those surviving domestic violence. In short, Auntie Na reaches out to all those who fall through the cracks of our broken system. In the last decade, although this neighborhood has seen many houses abandoned and many stores boarded up, Auntie Na’s House has remained as the rock that has weathered the storm.
We Are Building a Village
We are working to expand our dream to create a Village in the heart of Detroit. We want the basic community outreach programs that were started in Auntie Na’s House to be run out of program houses throughout the neighborhood. Our expansion includes purchasing abandoned homes and lots in the neighborhood and turning them into homes, gardens, and outreach centers. We have already purchased four houses and are working to build up Auntie Na’s Village to include our Medical House to provide free check-ups and medical access, the Nutrition House for our food programs and community kitchen, the Learning House for after-school tutoring and education, and the Clothing House for clothing distribution.
What’s Next for Auntie Na’s House?
In the coming years we hope to purchase more homes and land to expand our Community Gardens, create our Mercy and Grace House to outreach to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and our Art House to do creative arts programs for our youth. We also hope to create a non-profit Community Land Trust to act as a steward of the land and housing, develop it for community benefit, and hold it in perpetuity. As we expand we hope to build up a Village and organization that will meet people’s basic needs and collectively own land that we can pass down to the future generations. Throughout all of this work, we want to continue supporting youth and families, do education and organizing, and contribute towards community empowerment.