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 Detroit Phoenix Center’s History

by Founder & CEO, Courtney Smith

After having my own personal struggles with housing insecurity and seeing friends and family members struggle with stability in Detroit and feeling so hopeless - I wanted to explore best practices and solutions in other communities to implement back in my hometown.

That desire led me to taking a transcontinental journey on board the Millennial Trains Project (MTP). MTP was a train that doubled as a social incubator for misfits (like me) who were not only crazy enough to believe that they could change the world --but actually set out to do it. 

On board the train, I conducted youth focus groups and spoke with thought leaders around the youth homelessness space in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver and Detroit. This took place in 2016.


I learned that many of the young people felt like they didn’t have a voice and that the best way to serve youth experiencing homelessness was rarely ever used. So I set out to amplify the voices and lived experiences of youth experiencing homelessness and to adopt a service  model in Detroit that was both innovative and effective. 

Thus, birthing Detroit Phoenix Center. We opened in 2017 as a completely volunteer-driven Asset Based Resource Center providing drop in services and basic need support to teens and young adults  in need. 


To provide critical resources, support, and a safe-nurturing & inclusive environment to youth transitioning who are transitioning out of poverty and homelessness. 





Our values describe the way we treat people and the way we do business as a fast-growing organization. These values guide our decisions and actions. These values belong to everyone in the organization and are a reflection of our commitment to the youth we serve in Detroit, MI. We value: 

1. Strengths-Based: Start with and build upon the skills, strengths, and positive       

   characteristics of each youth

2. Positive Youth Development: Start with and build upon the skills, strengths, and

    positive characteristics of each youth

3. Holistic: Engage youth in a manner that recognizes that mental, physical, spiritual, and social

    health are interconnected and interrelated. 

4. Collaboration: Establish a principles-based, youth-focused system of support that integrates

     practices, procedures, and services within and across agencies, systems, and policies. 

Our values in action are reflected in the following ways:

1. Journey Oriented: 

    Start with and build upon the skills, strengths, and     

    positive characteristics of each youth. 

2. Trauma-Informed: 

    Recognize that most youth experiencing

    homelessness have experienced trauma; build         

    relationships, responses, and services on that     



3. Non-Judgmental:
     Interact with youth without labeling or judging them               on the basis of background, experiences, choices, or         


4. Harm Reduction: 

     Contain the effects of risky behavior in the short-term 

     and seek to reduce its effects in the long-term.

5. Trusting Youth-Adult Relationships:

     Build relationships by interacting with youth in an honest, 

     dependable, authentic, caring, and supportive way. 

6. Racial Equity & Inclusion

     We believe that the inclusion of diverse perspectives is     

     essential to achieving long-term, systemic change.


7. Dignity, Hope, & Inclusion:

    We embrace inclusion and access regardless of race,   

     ethnicity, culture, language, gender, age, 

     socioeconomics, physical challenges, sexual orientation,

     or any other difference.


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