Courtney Smith’s “aha” moment came when her teenage brother showed up at the house she shared with roommates with all his belongings and homeless – just as she, her sisters, and her parents had all been at similar ages. As Courtney cared for her brother and her basement filled with air mattresses for him and his friends, she knew this was not a long-term solution. And, other programs to which she connected them did not work. She founded Detroit Phoenix Center, a drop-in model driven by youth voices and where homeless and street-connected youth have autonomy over their lives. Her brother – head of the Center’s youth action board – died by suicide two days before the Center opened, proving to Courtney that this work was the difference between life and death. Almost four years later, DPC provides resources and support – showers, meals, basic need items and clothing, a computer lab, and so much more – to high-risk and homeless youth.
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