Barbara Willis, Chief Operating Officer of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries

here were over 14,000 homeless Detroiters in 2016, according to the Homeless Action Network of Detroit. Though that number is down almost 12 percent from 2015, the population is still significant.

Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries assists about 43 percent of Detroit’s total homeless population through its various shelters and programs, says COO Barbara Willis. What started out as a soup kitchen in 1909 has grown into one of the largest rescue missions in the country. Last year, the organization served over 4,000 people just through shelters, warming centers and transitional housing.

“People used to say that the Detroit Rescue Mission was the best-kept secret. Our president, Dr. Chad Audi, made it a point to bring us back into the community to connect and collaborate with folks,” Willis says. “That’s one of the strong parts of the rescue mission – that we’re not just serving our clients, but we’re influencing the community as a whole.”

DRMM offers a variety of resources and programming, including transitional and permanent shelter for men, women and families, which is especially important for the upcoming winter months.

“During any regular season, we have overnight shelter for men and women, but when the temperature reaches a certain point, we don’t want people staying out in the streets. So they are able to come in and stay in our facility,” Willis says.


DRMM doesn’t stop at helping the homeless population. The organization services veterans, people recently released from prison, battered women and even teen moms.

“The teen moms program is where the teens can come in with their babies,” Willis says. “They have to go to school during the day and we have someone to take care of the children during that time.”

The kids in their housing and programs are also given the opportunity to experience a summer camp experience at DRMM’s 240-acre ranch in Howell.

“We take a lot of the kids to the ranch in the summer, and they can stay there for one week. We bus them out and we bring them back. We serve about 1,000 kids each summer,” Willis says.

Willis says DRMM has no plans to slow down, and is even planning for expansion, despite the increase in appeal of its main location’s real estate – which is within blocks of the new Little Caesars Arena.

“We’re looking to expand in terms of the number that we serve,” Willis says. “The substance abuse problem is growing like crazy. We’ll certainly expand beds in that area.

“We’re here to stay,” she continues. “We will continue to serve the homeless. Many times they are displaced and hid other places, but our goal is to continue to serve the homeless in this area. We’ve been here for many, many years, and the need is very great.”


Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries engages about 12,000 volunteers each year in order to continue its important work in the community. If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more, call 313-993-4700 or visit

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