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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. 


Start with and build upon the skills, strengths, and positive characteristics of each youth. 


to your destination




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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