Government is adding more than $1.2 million to enhance staffing and expand youth outreach, while working to create a new "no-questions-asked" safe housing option to better support vulnerable youth on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Informed by the results of an extensive file review of 124 children and youth residing in or frequenting the DTES and building off of lessons learned from the first six months of operation under the rapid response team model, the Ministry of Children and Family Development is investing in and realigning services to respond to the specific identified needs of at-risk youth in the area.
A dedicated adolescent services unit will be created at the ministry’s Cambie Street office location at a cost of approximately $800,000. The office will focus its services on homeless youth or those involved in intravenous drug use and prostitution, while existing child protection services will be shifted to other offices within the service delivery area. To accommodate this change, eight new full-time equivalent (FTE) staff positions will be added. The adolescent services unit will offer outreach and extended night-time hours (to 12:30 a.m.) to give young people every opportunity to access supports when and where they need them.
Given its success and continuing demand for services, two additional FTE positions will also be added to the rapid response team to permanently establish the team’s coordination and administrative functions.
The rapid response team has been in place since October 2015. This integrated and coordinated team of on-the-ground service providers – including police, community outreach workers, mental health and addictions counsellors – monitors and supports youth who are deemed to be in the highest risk category. It also provides influence to remove systemic barriers and address any identified service gaps.
One of the gaps the team has identified is the need for on-the-ground service providers who can reach out directly, finding and connecting with vulnerable young people to offer them services where they live. To address this issue, the ministry will work with its partners to provide more than $400,000 to service delivery organizations. This new funding will allow partners experienced in these services to expand youth outreach, extend their hours of operation and enhance their staffing complement as further support to the ministry’s new adolescent services unit.
Another service priority is the availability of housing where tenants are not expected to abstain from using alcohol and other drugs and involvement in a rehabilitation program is not necessarily a requirement for entry. Known as a "no-questions-asked approach," the ministry is working with the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation, the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health and BC Housing to establish a low-barrier resource that would provide temporary housing as well as substance use, mental health and public health supports specifically for vulnerable youth. The home will be targeted to open late 2017.
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development –
“Service providers on the Downtown Eastside are doing a better job of talking to one another and working together to support street-entrenched youth. We need to build on that. We’ve learned a lot about this vulnerable population over the last six months and we are using those lessons to reduce organizational barriers and gaps to service. That means that when we hear about a young person using hard drugs and sleeping on the streets, we seek them out, we offer services, we find them a safe place to stay and we give them a chance to rest and get clean on their terms, while we connect them with the counselling and support they need to make those changes stick.”
Terry Lake, Minister of Health –
“Vulnerable youth facing an uncertain future need specific supports, ones that we have been working hard to provide through projects like the Granville Youth Health Centre and through funding provided to Vancouver’s Covenant House for at-risk young women. We’re glad to see care providers recognize the needs of youth and help them address these life roadblocks.”
Caroline Bonesky, executive director, Family Services of Greater Vancouver –
“Keeping youth who are on the streets of Vancouver safe has been a priority of Family Services of Greater Vancouver since 1988. We are encouraged by the announcement that funds will be directed to the vital work of keeping youth connected to resources, through street outreach. This service provides valuable support to youth who are not able or willing to come off the street to access services. We have been working collaboratively with our colleagues and MCFD towards better outcomes for youth. This announcement demonstrates the Ministry of Children and Family Development has listened to community recommendations.”
- As part of its operational response to the Representative for Children and Youth’s report, Paige’s Story, government implemented a rapid response team model in the DTES with representation from:
- Vancouver Coastal Health – Addiction Services
- Vancouver Coastal Health – Child and Youth Mental Health Services
- BC Housing
- Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS)
- Vancouver Police Department (Car 20)
- Community Youth Outreach (Watari and Directions Youth Hub)
- MCFD Youth Outreach Staff
- The ministry also undertook a file review of children and youth in care or receiving reviewable services who reside or frequent the DTES. Read the complete report: ow.ly/ez3Q3003NG9
Two backgrounders follow.