HELPING HANDS: An inaugural concert opening the Tommy Garrett House took place in July (Robert Newman).

What do you call a guitar player without a girlfriend? — Homeless.

Jokes about struggling, unhoused musicians abound, but the topic is no laughing matter. In Detroit, musicians and members of the artistic community who are dealing with housing insecurity and mental health issues have a new haven: the Tommy Garrett House.

Dedicated on Dec. 18, the Tommy Garrett House was conceived as a safe and stable environment for residents to live and create. The home is a collaboration between Neighborhood Service Organization, an integrated health and human service agency serving Detroit’s vulnerable populations, and The Right Productions, an entertainment and event service provider in the city.

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing artists throughout the different phases of their work and life,” said Shahida Mausi, president and CEO of The Right Productions and CEO and SVP of The Black Promoters Collective. “I’ve seen how hard it is when success might be right around the corner, but it’s not here yet. And I’ve seen artists who have actually reached huge levels of success who are also struggling personally with mental health issues. That can easily translate into homelessness very, very quickly.”

Mausi, who is Garrett’s cousin, envisioned a safety net for the creative community.

“A place where you can work in your craft and still get the support that you need to get to the next stable phase,” Mausi explained. “I always wanted to have a place where artists could go and be supported and still function as artists. That’s what the Tommy Garrett House is.”

Located on the northwest side of Detroit, the Tommy Garrett House is a three-bedroom, 1,920-square-foot home for up to six artist residents. The home was named after noted singer, songwriter and recording artist Tommy Garrett, who years ago overcame homelessness with NSO’s support. NSO is on the forefront of homelessness in the city, where on any given night 1,500 people are without housing. NSO serves 12,000 people annually in Wayne and Oakland counties.

MOTOWN MERCY: A dedication ceremony in December took place at the Tommy Garrett House. In attendance were NSO CEO Linda Little (right), Shahida Mausi (left) and Keith Flournoy, deputy director of parks and recreation for the city of Detroit. (Robert Newman)

Initially NSO, which owned the property, was considering selling the split-level ranch-style home, but a conversation between Mausi and NSO president and CEO Linda Little altered the course.

“Having worked with artists for my entire career, I’ve seen the gaps in financial and mental health services in the creative community,” said Mausi. “I dreamt of a place where creative people could feel supported and cared for during difficult times. I shared my dream with Linda Little at NSO, who has the expertise to bring a dream into reality.”

The organizations conceptualized and hosted the inaugural Community of Hope concert featuring R&B artists Maxwell and Tamia. The inaugural concert, also hosted by the City of Detroit, took place in July 2023 and launched a community-wide drive to address the challenges faced by the unhoused and their families in metro Detroit.

Concert of Hope funds were allocated to address homelessness by supporting housing and services tailored to the needs of unhoused individuals, including those within metro Detroit’s creative community. The Tommy Garrett House was made possible through the Community of Hope supporters.

The 2nd annual Community of Hope is scheduled for Aug. 2-4, 2024, in downtown Detroit. The event will feature performances by various musical artists, including by headliner Kem, during the Concert of Hope at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, which is managed and operated by The Right Productions.

Mausi hopes other communities will embrace the idea of creating safe housing for the artist community. “I really do hope that this will be the dawn of more facilities like this around the country,” Mausi said. “I hope this is just the beginning of providing services to creative individuals.”