A blue sign stands in the middle of the land located at 223 Manistique Street on Detroit’s eastside. Written in white, it reads “Manistique Kids Community Treehouse.” Grazed by the first fallen leaves of autumn, a maple and cottonwood tree stretch out from the ground, high above the neighboring homes and into the cloudy afternoon sky.

Across the street sits a home covered from porch to lawn in Halloween decorations, from pumpkins to skeletons and everything in between. It’s just a few blocks off Jefferson Avenue — far enough away to put the noise of passing vehicles out of earshot. With the exception of the occasional breeze or bird chirping, the neighborhood is quiet.

It’s the type of setting that brings a sense of stillness and peace.

From the front door of the home emerges Tammy Black, who breaks the silence with an energetic “Hello.” Black, a native of Detroit, has lived here for the last six years. The piece of land across from her home will be the site of the Manistique Community Treehouse Center, a 400-square-foot, ADA-compliant treehouse for occupational therapy, counseling, and education that she’s hoping will come to life next summer.

Nurturing in nature

The idea for this project came to Black at the end of 2015. A mother of six children, each of which has special needs, she thought a lot about the challenges the world would give them for being different. For the past three decades, she’s worked with special needs children and has a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Capella University.

Through her work with Creative Empowerment Counseling Services, she already puts her counseling services to work. With the Manistique Community Treehouse Center, though, she sought to create a space where those who are considered special needs could learn in a different way — a space where everyone, both with and without disabilities, would be free of judgement to be themselves.

Admittedly, part of her inspiration to have this space take the form of a treehouse came from watching the show “Treehouse Masters.” She also liked the relaxing essence of a treehouse, and how it brings people closer to nature.

“In a treehouse, the only thing that matters is your self-confidence and creativity,” Black says. “When you’re out here in nature, you’re in a space where you can just be yourself. Nothing else matters.”

Story by Kristen Davis
Photos by Anthony Lanzilote

Read the original story: Model D