Homeless, lost and afraid—youth on the street don’t have many options. The Province’s $250,000 funding for residential crisis help for at-risk young women at Covenant House Vancouver aims to change this reality.
“This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week, but life on the streets with mental illness is difficult any week of the year, and youth are particularly at risk,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “This funding will bring hope to youth in crisis. Programs offered through Covenant House tie into our key priorities of providing personal, wrap-around community care for those with mental health or substance use concerns.”
“We know that the key to helping at-risk youth is to continually reach out to them and ensure that services and supports are available when they are ready to seek and accept help,” said Stephanie Cadieux, Minister for Children and Family Development. “Covenant House is a valued partner in this endeavour, connecting youth – including youth from care – with advice, resources and opportunities that can help them overcome life challenges and find success.”
Covenant House Vancouver currently offers outreach and support programs for youth aged 16-24, and is working to increase programming specific to young women. Funding of $250,000 provided by the Government of British Columbia will go towards developing and enhancing programs for young women, adding to the services they already offer including: general and addictions counselling; access to mental health clinicians; and housing and social services referrals.
“Covenant House provides much-needed sanctuary to Vancouver’s youth, and I’m proud to be involved in a caring society with a government that supports their efforts,” said Sam Sullivan, MLA for Vancouver-False Creek, who attended today’s event on behalf of Lake.
This funding is in addition to the $315,000 the Ministry of Children and Family Development provided in May 2015 to support the establishment of a youth and young adult mentorship program that will be delivered through Covenant House Vancouver.
“Being able to offer services specifically for young women is a powerful thing,” said Krista Thompson, executive director, Covenant House Vancouver. “It’s so important we address the needs they may have in a safe, gender-specific space, that allows them to make the changes necessary to help them with the trauma and difficulties they may have faced in their lives.”
The services provided by Covenant House Vancouver link young people to appropriate resources in the community, to help them out of homelessness. Programs are provided in a caring environment supplemented by on-site staff, and include:
- Life skills training;
- Pre-employment skill building (online training module in development);
- Professional mental health and addictions services;
- Long term housing support; and,
- Recreational programming.
Covenant House Vancouver has supported street youth since September 1997, helping more than 1,500 youth last year. The organization provides food, shelter, clothing and counselling to the estimated 700 street youth living in Vancouver at any given time, and are driven by the ultimate goal shared by the 21 Covenant House sites across North and Central America: that there be no youth on the street.
The Ministry of Health recently released several policy papers that outline the strategic service priorities for the health sector. These priorities focus on building primary and community care supports to better meet the needs of individuals, including those with mental health and substance use challenges.
From Oct. 4-10, 2015, Canadians recognize Mental Illness Awareness Week, an annual national public education campaign designed to help open the eyes of the public to the reality of mental illness.
Improving Health Services for Individuals with Severe Addiction and Mental Illness: www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2013/improving-severe-addiction-and-mental-illness-services.pdf
Covenant House Vancouver: www.covenanthousebc.org/
Mental Illness Awareness Week: http://www.camimh.ca/mental-illness-awareness-week/about-miaw/