Freedom House is a temporary home for survivors of persecution from around the world who are seeking asylum in the United States and Canada. Our mission is to uphold a fundamental American principle, one inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, of providing safety for those "yearning to breathe free."
Guided by our belief that all people deserve to live free from oppression and to be treated with justice, compassion and dignity, we offer a continuum of care and services to our residents as well as to other refugees in need. We advocate for systemic change that more fully recognizes the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
In 2012, we became a partner in the Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium servicing victims of human trafficking.
In 1983, horrified by reports of political torture and murder in El Salvador, a group of Detroiters came together to help refugees who had fled that country and were arriving in the city in droves due to its proximity to Canada. Existing homeless shelters were unable to meet the particular legal, medical, language and resettlement needs posed by this refugee population. Residents of Windsor, Ontario, with the same concerns joined with the U.S. group to form the Detroit/Windsor Refugee Coalition, specifically for refugees and asylum seekers.
The Canadians' assistance was especially valuable because, at the time, asylum in Canada was more readily available. Refugees who could not secure asylum in the United States were taken to the Canadian Customs and Immigration Station in Windsor, where someone from the coalition would offer them housing.
St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Corktown was the coalition's first site for its office and temporary housing for the refugees. The Rev. Glendon Heath, a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, was the coalition's first coordinator. The passionately dedicated Sr. Kit Concannon assisted Fr. Heath and became coordinator when he moved to a diocesan appointment.
The coalition's reputation spread rapidly throughout the U.S. and the number of refugees seeking assistance grew. The housing at St. Peter's Church quickly became inadequate, so the coalition moved to the unused Ste. Anne's convent in southwest Detroit, which remains our home today. During the incumbency of Janet Ray, a tireless, visionary and committed coordinator, our name was changed to Freedom House. In 2012, we became an official member of the Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium (NTAC) servicing victims of human trafficking.
Since our founding the refugees arriving at Freedom House have reflected the areas of conflict and turmoil in the world. From the El Salvadorans of the 1980s, we saw many refugees from the Middle East in the 1990s and Somalians after the crisis in that country in 1992. Today the vast majority of our residents come from sub-Saharan Africa, especially Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Cameroon. We also see several refugees from Latin America and the Middle East. We continue to assist refugees who wish to enter Canada, but now nearly all of our clients seek asylum in the United States.