Darren Howie

Acting Coordinator, Supportive Housing Program
Dad. Coach. Optimist

Phoenix Youth are amazing. There are so many adjectives to use: resilient, strong, courageous - they’re all there within youth. 

Supporting youth is a big part of my life, both in my work, at home and in my volunteer time. I have two teenage boys who are very active in minor sports. For the past ten years, I’ve been a coach in minor hockey and minor baseball. This summer, I’m head coach for the oldest son’s baseball team and assistant coach for my youngest. I’m also a board member for my local minor hockey association. 

When I was finishing up my first go at university, a group of my colleagues and I started talking about what we wanted to do with our adult lives. One of my colleagues, who was finishing her social work degree, told me about this new organization that worked with youth called Phoenix. At the time, I didn’t know about Phoenix, so I checked into it. I thought Phoenix seemed like a great organization and was doing good work so I applied to be a volunteer. 

Phoenix at that time was just one building, Phoenix House on Hunter Street. That’s where I started with my interview and had my first shifts. The space itself was welcoming and warm. We were a tight staff team who made sure that the best interests of the youth were first. I liked how the needs of youth were prioritized. 

One thing that struck me about Phoenix was how even the little things, like how we look after our physical environment, sends such strong message. It shows that everyone deserves a safe welcoming and a peaceful place to live or to access support. The message is that we are all worthy and deserving of this. 

There is a lot of laughter at Phoenix. I find that if you spend the majority of your time in a place where there is opportunity for laughter and fun, it makes the hard times easier to get through.

I really do believe in a better tomorrow. We have opportunities to do things today to make tomorrow better, however “better” may look for each person. Being part of this hope  is my motivation to come to work every day.

One of the things that I find fascinating is that we don’t know where our words today might land. We need to be aware of the meaningful actions that can come with keeping our words kind and supportive. 

Early on in my time, there was a young youth who was a great guitar player but who was going through a really rough patch. He wanted to move away from his troubles. One thing that he was going to do was sell his guitar. I asked, “Are you sure you want to sell your guitar?”.  I suggested that he try other options because I knew how important the guitar was to him. A couple months later, I ran into him and he thanked me for questioning him about his guitar. He said that it made him rethink some things because it was so special in his life. 

My favourite moments are the ones when I get to witness success in our youth. Being able to cheer for them during those key moments in their lives is powerful. When I was the Assistant Coordinator at the Supervised Apartment Program, my favourite time of the whole year was late June: high school graduations. Being able to see someone be recognized publicly for long-term success is amazing. You can see the pride in how people carry themselves on that day, especially if they have overcome life struggles to get to where they are in that moment. 

Phoenix and I mesh well. I like to think that I’ve had an impact on Phoenix the same way Phoenix has made an impact on me. The values that Phoenix holds important and at its core, are the same values that important in my life. 

Darren has been working with Phoenix since 1991, his first shift was New Year’s Eve.
Darren started as a volunteer then went on to be a Relief Worker, Weekend Overnight at Phoenix House, Key Worker at Phoenix House, Case Manager at Phoenix Centre, Follow-Up Coordinator/Case Manager at Phoenix Centre, Community Educator at Phoenix Prevention Program (now Youth and Family Therapy), Assistant Coordinator at Supervised Apartment Program (now Phoenix Homes for Independence), Coordinator for Phoenix Centre for Youth and now Acting Coordinator for our Supportive Housing Program.