Debbie Heard

Phoenix Trusteeship Worker
Advocate. Organizer. A Voice.

Before coming to Phoenix, I worked in a therapeutic group home for many years. There was a time when I was walking the beach with my family and a young person ran up to me. They were very excited to see me and actually through their arms around me. In that moment, they thanked me for saving their life. I’m not sure exactly what I did, but they said that my words helped them through a really rough time. It’s moving to know the difference and impact you can make in someone else’s life.

My job combines two of my unique skills sets: accounting and child/youth work. I had worked as a senior accounts receivable clerk for 12 years and at a bank for five years before that. I’ve also been a child and youth counsellor for 35 years. I’ve never found a job before that has really matched my skill sets so perfectly. 

As the Phoenix trustee, I help young people stay housed. That’s really what it’s about. For youth who choose and are ready to enter the program, I pay their rent and power bills. Then we budget their remaining funds to cover other expenses month by month. Depending on the youth, budgeting can look like grocery shopping and meal planning or even buying groceries every week. Sometimes, when a youth calls me and says that due to health reasons they couldn’t, get out and are in need of emergency food, I’ll deliver them that food. I do it because I care about them.

It’s also about financial literacy. I help youth figure out their banking needs and rehabilitate credit. I work a lot with credit agencies and banks trying to help the youth repair any debts that they might have. I also facilitate repayment schedules. 

Another part of my job is managing the Micro Loan Program - it’s a very, very small but very important side of the program. A generous donor donated a set amount of money that I am allowed to use to help youth get out from behind debt. It can be used for paying high interest loans, so that the youth can break the high cycle of debt that they are in.  These micro loans are usually provided for six to eight month periods, completely interest free with a pay-back plan in place. Youth take repayment to Phoenix very seriously. In fact, I’ve been able to “re-loan” the amount of the original donation over four times since we started this program!  I’ve seen what a huge difference a little bit of trust and resources can make.

I’ve been so happy in this role. It’s absolutely ideal for my skill set and what I’m good at. 

I love that every day that I come in, I am making a difference. I really like my job and I care about what I do every day.

My last meeting with any youth is always so special. It’s a moment of succession. In that moment, I know that they have the skills that they need to manage money and their own finances. Each of those meetings are “fill your cup up” moments - those are my favourites. 

Phoenix has helped change my perspective and expand my mind towards the daily lives of youth. I’ve learned so much here. 

Debbie has been working with Phoenix since July 2014.