B.C. funds 28 youth community care beds in Vancouver

The B.C. government has announced an expansion of mental-health and addictions supports for young people living in the Vancouver area.

The province says it is funding 28 new youth community care beds as part of the new Sanctuary program at Covenant House Vancouver, set to begin in June of this year. It notes it will invest about $5 million to operate the Sanctuary program over the next two years.

The B.C. government explains the program will provide young people in need with wraparound supports, such as stable housing and social supports.

“This program is so important to specifically support unhoused young people suffering with mental health and addictions issues, because we know that young people, no matter where they’ve come from, no matter what their circumstances, need access to care and supports. And we know that for youth starting a … wellness journey, stable housing is absolutely critical,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside said Friday.

“The beginning of that journey can be challenging, it can be scary, they might be on their own, there might not be somebody in their circle that they trust. But they can come here to Covenant and they can start to build a trusting relationship with the staff and the volunteers and the people who are here. They can find a safe place to rest.”

Whiteside, who toured the Covenant House building in Vancouver Friday, says the program is low-barrier and for high-risk young people, so they can “stabilize [and] connect to the care that they need.”

“To help them meet their very basic needs so that they are in a position to start to chart that path forward,” the minister added.

“Kids need a chance, they just need a chance, and we have to do everything that we can to provide them with that chance.”

As part of the program, Covenant House says it will work with young people to identify the right recovery path for them. In addition to the 28 new beds, the program will see 33 new full-time employees hired. These employees will include youth workers, peer support workers, a social worker, and a counsellor, the province explains.

To take part in the program, young people can self-refer or be referred by a service provider.

Citing the Point in Time Homeless Counts in 2023, the B.C. government says eight per cent of people recorded were under the age of 25. They also found that almost half of the 4,800 people counted reported first experiencing homelessness as a youth.

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