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Amanda LeClaire,

LaToya Cross

The Welcome and Asset-Based Center provides support and a nurturing environment for youth and young adults transitioning from homelessness.

Azaria Terrell was leaving foster care when she heard about the Detroit Phoenix Center.

“My father thought it would be a good idea for me to [join] because he heard it was all girls and I don’t have a lot of women in my life,” Terrell shares. “What made me join was because he said [the Phoenix Center] had a really cool SAT learning program, and I always wanted to further my education and prepare.

After getting to know Courtney Smith, founder and CEO of the Detroit Phoenix Center, and a participant in the center’s various activities, from learning to cook to yoga and attending events, Terrell said it makes it easier for her to get friends and get out of your comfort zone. .

It was four years ago. Today, Azaria Terrell is a high school student and a prominent member of the organization’s Youth Action Board. “Now I help create programs and fundraisers, talk to people, and help spread information,” she says. “It’s been wonderful.”

Created in 2017, the Detroit Phoenix Center (DPC) was created in response to the needs of underserved and transient youth in Detroit. The non-profit organization works to raise awareness and end youth homelessness. and the Blair Memorial Scholarship Fund, which rewards students interested in pursuing higher education.

Smith’s mission to help young underserved and visiting Detroit and centering youth voices in narratives involving homelessness emerging from his own experiences in the foster care system as a youth. She wanted to ensure accessibility to support services and resources for people coming out of homelessness and poverty.

It is estimated that 4.2 million youths and young adults are homeless every night. In Detroit, a databook project of the University of Michigan Solutions to Poverty Research Team and stakeholders (Smith, on behalf of DPC, being one of them) that analyzed homelessness and housing instability in Detroit and educational institutions, reported that more than 11,000 students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) may be experiencing homelessness and are not identified by their schools.

“Youth homelessness is very different from adult homelessness,” Smith says, acknowledging that there are different definitions.

Terrell expresses that it’s common for people to think of homelessness as just sleeping outside, “but it’s more than that,” she says. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there. I know people who are couch surfing or have gone months without water or heat. Most people don’t realize that these living conditions are signs of homelessness. Even in schools, principals or teachers do not notice if a student brings extra meals home or pay little attention to things that [show] maybe a child is struggling.

This further fuels the Detroit Phoenix Center’s mission and dedication to change. January will mark the center’s fifth anniversary and will be a testament to the impact Smith and his team have already had and the work to come.

“We have evolved so much. I think our biggest evolution is young people – giving young people a place at the table and really giving them leadership opportunities to change that narrative. [involving homelessness and youth homelessness]“recalls Smith. “We provide service [where] young people who benefit from the program are also involved in this process.

Terrell adds: ‘I tell Ms Courtney all the time that I really enjoy joining the DPC and I love being part of it because I know not many people my age have the opportunity to really speak their voice. big changes like this in the environment and in the world.

Find out how you can participate in the Detroit Phoenix Center’s annual One Night Without A Bed campaign here.


Listen: Learn more about the Detroit Phoenix Center and its movement to end youth homelessness.


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  • Amanda LeClaire is host of CultureShift and founding producer of WDET’s two locally produced daily shows. She has been involved in radio and the arts in Detroit for over a decade.

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  • LaToya Cross is a producer and writer on CultureShift with a passion for showcasing creatives using their platform to shape, change, and analyze society through an artistic lens.

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