British Columbia

B.C. government increases funding for at-risk DTES youth

The Ministry of Children and Family is putting forward $1.2 million to expand the youth outreach services in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside it implemented after a scathing report on a youth who died in ministry care.

$1.2 million will go to expand youth services implemented after a scathing report into a teen's death in care

Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development, is putting $1.2 million towards outreach for vulnerable youth in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (CBC)

The Ministry of Children and Family is providing $1.2 million to expand the youth outreach services in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside that it implemented after a scathing report on a youth who died in ministry care

Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the new funding will go towards:

  • A dedicated adolescent services unit at the ministry's Cambie Street office location with outreach and extended night-time hours.
  • Two additional full-time staff positions on the rapid response team — an integrated and coordinated team of police officers, community outreach workers, mental health and addictions counsellors — that was implemented in October 2015.
  • An extra $400,000 of funding to community partners.

Outside of the funding, Cadieux also made a commitment to establish low-barrier housing that employs a "no-questions asked" approach by 2017. 

In this low-barrier model, youth would be able to access shelter without having to abstain from alcohol, drugs or have to promise to enter into a rehab program

Cadieux said that service would probably have around five beds, which she admitted was far below the estimated 20 to 40 extremely vulnerable youth in the Downtown Eastside, but added "we have to do what we can, and this is our first step".

'Not enough'

Kali Sedgemore is someone who could have benefited from youth-outreach services in the Downtown Eastside.

Kali Sedgemore, a youth who has experienced homelessness in the Downtown Eastside, says the new funding commitment is not enough. (Vancouver Foundation)

The Vancouver Foundation youth advisor grew up on the street and often avoided sleeping in adult shelters. Instead, Sedgemore slept under bridges, on Granville Street or in Crab Park in the Downtown Eastside because it felt safer.

"It is a big step forward if they are doing 'no questions asked'," Sedgmore said, "but it's not enough. We need bigger investments to reach a wide variety of services. All young people deserve to have safe care and dignity in their community."

The sentiment is echoed by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s representative for children and youth.

While she welcomed today's announcement, Turpel-Lafond  also said it is not enough for this highly vulnerable group.

"More and more of our resources are shut down and our kids are on the streets, whether it's in a tent city in Victoria or an SRO in the Downtown Eastside," she said.

"This situation has got to the point where it's a crisis."

While the proposed shelter won't be in place until at least 2017, the ministry is planning to have the youth outreach unit operating by fall.