• You & Me BC

The Safe House: Combating Youth Homelessness In BC


A youth entering Covenant House


You & Me BC

December 12th, 2021


Tens of thousands of Canadian youth are homeless.


Covenant House provides food, shelter, and a range of services which help homeless BC youth get back on track. We spoke with Covenant House's Kristy Hayter about youth homelessness, the work Covenant House is doing to end it, and how you can help.


HELP END YOUTH HOMELESSNESS


How many homeless youth are there in BC and Canada?

Kristy: Vancouver’s most recent Homeless Count in 2020 counted 193 young people. The Homeless Count provides a snapshot of one night, but we know young people who are homeless are often hidden and can be underrepresented in these counts.


We conservatively estimate that there are between 100 to 500 young people experiencing homelessness in the Lower Mainland. Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey found that 20% of the homeless population in Canada is made up of youth between the ages of 13-24 and each year there are at least 35,000-40,000 youth experiencing homelessness.



Covenant House has programs tailored to the unique needs of young men and women


Here are some facts and stats regarding homeless youth in Canada:

  • 20% of Canada’s homeless population consists of young people between the ages of 13 and 24

  • At least 6,000 young people experience homelessness every night

  • 40% of homeless youth first experienced homelessness before the age of 16

  • Over 50% of homeless youth indicated that abuse at home contributed to their homelessness

Who are Canada's homeless youth? Kristy: They are your friends, neighbours, or could be some in your school. Young people who are experiencing homelessness come from all backgrounds, and you may not even know they are facing homelessness.


The important thing to know is that homelessness is just one part of their lives and does not define who they are. All children and youth deserve care and support as they learn the skills needed to become independent adults. Youth homelessness is different from adult homelessness and these young people require different services, housing, and supports.


What causes youth homelessness? Kristy: There are many causes of youth homelessness and the young people that come to us have often faced terrible situations in their past. They may have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, suffered human trafficking, aged out of foster care, or they have witnessed drug and alcohol misuse by their family members.


As a result, the physical and emotional trauma has affected them and caused them to flee their homes. Often, they run to the streets believing it will be safer, only to experience more trauma.


Often they run to the streets believing it will be safer, only to experience more trauma

If a young person lacks family supports or has never been taught the skills needed to live independently, it can make it difficult to break the cycle of being homeless.


The young people we journey with are resilient, strong, and are working hard to overcome challenges no young person should ever have to face.


How many youth does Covenant House serve, and how do you serve them? What helps most?


Kristy: On an average year, we typically work with over 1000 individual young people aged 16-24 at Covenant House Vancouver.


Covenant House Vancouver supports young people who are at risk of, or who are experiencing homelessness to become independent adults through our carefully designed Continuum of Care.


Covenant House offers a range of supports, including an outreach team (far right)


Covenant House Vancouver’s core programs include Street Outreach, Drop-In Centre, Crisis Program, and a long-term transitional living program called Rights of Passage.


Our Continuum of Care includes wrap-around care that includes counselling, art therapy, Registered Social Workers for case planning, and housing supports.


We work with young people from a one-size-fits-one lens. That means we work with each youth as an individual and work to provide or connect them services that make sense for them. That could mean working on stabilizing their mental health, budgeting, or other critical life skills.


What gaps exist in the system that contribute to youth homelessness? Kristy: There are several gaps in service that need to be addressed so we as communities can work together to eliminate youth homelessness. The current housing and toxic drug crisis are impacting our youth, staff, and the entire community. The lack of affordable housing, mental health, and addiction supports make it even harder for young people to transition from homelessness to independence.


We would love to see more funding and services in all these areas. How can people support Covenant House and vulnerable youth across BC?


Kristy: Here are some ways you can show your support and solidarity for those experiencing homelessness:

  • Educate yourself and others about homeless and youth homelessness issues

  • Celebrate and support those helping to end homelessness

  • Highlight local issues in the media

  • Donate to non-profits and service providers

  • Volunteer

  • Donate food, clothing, and other needed items

  • Use your vote

  • Shared a tweet, sign a petition, or attend an advocacy event

If you would like to support Covenant House Vancouver:

The Kronier Family, Scotiabank, and an anonymous donor want to inspire generosity in our community and together have provided $200,000 in matching funds. Donations made will be tripled but only until December 31st.


Youth experiencing homelessness will receive special treats for Advent and a backpack full of brand-new essential items for the holidays. You can help by providing our most-needed items like underwear and socks or making a donation towards a backpack.


We also have an Amazon Wish List that allows you to purchase needed items and have them shipped directly to us.

 

To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to editor@youandmebc.ca