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Ministry of Children and Family Development

Government Communications and Public Engagement
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Profile of children and youth on the Downtown Eastside

In response to a recommendation in the Representative for Children and Youth’s report, Paige’s Story, the ministry reviewed information about 124 children and youth in care or receiving services, as of April 2015, who lived in or frequented the Downtown Eastside (DTES) and were served by the Vancouver Youth Services North team and Yankee 20. Electronic and physical files were reviewed and interviews with ministry and delegated aboriginal agency staff and service providers were held to better understand what is or is not working well in practice and service delivery.

The review focused on children or youth in high-risk situations – those who present with multiple or significant risk factors and challenges, such as being homeless, dealing with substance misuse or being victims of sexual exploitation. It is estimated there are about 50 vulnerable children and youth in high-risk situations living in within the DTES catchment area at any given time who need supports or interventions.

The review looked at who these young people are, where they come from, what brought them to the DTES, what challenges they face, what common characteristics they share, what services they’ve accessed and how effective those services were in helping them achieve safety and security.

Some findings include:

  • The average age of youth in the sample was 17.
  • Among those considered at the highest-risk, the majority were female.
  • The most common reasons youth gave for living in or frequenting the DTES were: family, access to services or resources not available in their home communities, access to drugs, access to free food-shelter and a sense of belonging and acceptance in the DTES community.
  • Housing, outreach services, mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment, and transitioning services were all identified as areas of critical need.

Read the full report:

Rapid Response Team

In October 2015, government implemented a Rapid Response Team model in Vancouver’s DTES to follow the area’s most high-risk youth more closely than ever to find them, talk to them and encourage them to get help – even when they don’t want to be found.  

The team continues to make progress with 38 youth who now have a place to sleep, access to the health care they need and, most importantly, they have a group of professionals who understand the unique challenges they face and are looking out for their best interests.

In the first six months, this new service delivery model has enabled care workers to stay in touch and build trust with at-risk youth, many of whom require consistent outreach and follow-up.

Thanks to the coordinated efforts of service providers some of those young people who did not have the means to continue their education and had no way of earning money can now receive financial support for high school, skills training, or a post-secondary education through existing MCFD programs. And for those who had no place to live or were sleeping on the streets they are now connected with Safe House services and have a fixed address, while the team works with them to develop a plan for long-term housing. The team has also successfully connected young people with existing mental health supports and medical treatment, helped them get their first government-issued identification, and provided transportation to re-connect them with their families from across the province.