Vancouver, BC – Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is partnering with the provincial government and community agencies to provide health care, housing and other supports to young people experiencing homelessness, mental health and substance use problems. Three new homes – including a low-barrier youth home – are now open and ready for youth to move in.
"Housing is a critical, basic human need, and these new homes will provide vulnerable youth with shelter to help keep them safe and protected," says Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "Once a person has the security of a home, they are more likely to shift their focus to one of healing and begin to access crucial supports to help them along their pathway to hope and recovery."
"For many homeless and street-involved youth, the first and most important step can be to offer them a safe, secure place where they don't feel judged," says Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy. "Creating an environment where they feel welcome and at home we have a better chance of really connecting with them and getting them the help they need – on their terms and when they feel they're ready for it."
A new five-bed, low-barrier home is now open in East Vancouver. Using a "no questions asked approach" the home is available to vulnerable teens – including those who may need support in taking the first steps to overcome drug or alcohol issues. VCH, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and Directions Youth Services – a division of Family Services of Greater Vancouver – have partnered to provide the home, which will care for up to 120 youth every year and will offer temporary housing as well as substance use, mental health and public health supports on site.
"They can walk in the door with their pets and possessions, which is what makes it low-barrier and unique," says Emily Giguere, VCH's Clinical Planner for Youth Substance and Prevention Services. "We know that some homeless youth won't go to shelters for a variety of reasons, but this is not a shelter, it's a home, with connections to health care and other supports that youth desperately need."
It's anticipated that the average stay in the low-barrier home will be one month, during which time the focus will be on stabilizing, connecting and transitioning youth to services. A counsellor and social worker will ensure the young adults get connected to the services they need to begin building the foundation for more stable lives.
"We are pleased to offer this critical support and safe refuge to youth in need, especially during these colder months," says Marnie Goldenberg, Director of Directions Youth Services.
VCH is partnering with Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS) to provide 10 new youth beds at two homes; one for 16 to 18-year-olds, and another for 19 to 24-year-olds, including those transitioning out of government care. The two homes are located in Vancouver and were purchased by BC Housing.
"Being able to provide homes to ensure youth with mental health and or substance use issues receive the best possible care and have access to the support services they need is a priority for government," says Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
"These houses will fill a gap in the continuum of care," says Debbie Anderson Eng Director of Youth Services, Pacific Community Resource Society. "Youth may come to us from the low-barrier house or detox, and within the supportive recovery model, they can work on life skills, go to school or work, connect with their families, and learn how to deal with the issues that led to their substance use in a healthy way," says Anderson Eng. Staffing will be consistent, with three house-parents per home, so youth can work on building trusting relationships.
The new homes build on VCH's Vancouver Community's Child & Youth Mental Health & Substance Use Strategy to provide streamlined and equitable access to services for clients up to the age of 24, and their families.
The homes support the work of the Ministry of Health and the new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA) to combat the overdose crisis and save lives. MMHA is working with partners across sectors on a wide range of actions – spearheaded by the new provincial Overdose Emergency Response Centre – including increasing access to life-saving naloxone and opioid addiction treatments such as Suboxone, methadone and injectable hydromorphone. Supervised consumption and overdose prevention services continue to open, and these sites will expand access to drug-checking and provide other services to help people who are at risk of overdose with proactive support including treatment and recovery.
VCH is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and residential care to more than one million people in communities including: Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides highly specialized care and services for people throughout BC, and is the province's hub of health care education and research.
PCRS is an award-winning, accredited, not-for-profit society providing quality social services in the Lower Mainland since 1984. PCRS provides a range of services, including education programs, employment, housing, and addiction counselling and prevention programs for youth, adults, and families.
Directions Youth Services provides 24/7 support to at-risk, homeless, and street-involved youth under 25. Directions Youth Services offers spaces where Vancouver's most vulnerable youth can connect with supports, detox from substances, and access transitional or short-term housing options.
Public Affairs Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health
Office: (604) 708-5340 / Cell: (604) 312-1148