It is not just real estate where demand outstrips supply in Metro Vancouver: there is also a huge gap between homeless youth and shelter beds dedicated to helping them.
Calum Scott is the Youth Director with Family Services of Greater Vancouver, and he says on any given night, there are around 700 youth, aged 13 to 25, either on the street or couch-surfing.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development has confirmed there are just 27 beds dedicated for youth in four youth specific shelters from Vancouver to Surrey – and Scott says that’s not right.
“No, it is absolutely inefficient. What is scary is just over half of those beds are for youth under 19. We really have the ten beds for youth over 19. The thing about the youth situation in Vancouver is its bad for all ages, but there are way less resources available for youth once they hit the age of majority.”
More youth resources needed
Scott says there needs to be more resources for homeless youth, especially for those aged 19 and older.
“We have nothing like a safe house for youth over 19. So a safe house would be a place where a youth who is in crisis, just needing some intensive support to get through some situations so they can exit the cycle of homelessness, can stay for one to three months to try and stabilize somewhat and start getting some services around them.”
“We definitely need to find some affordable housing options for youth that allow them to secure long term permanent housing that isn’t tied to services. There is a term that is used a lot called ‘housing first’. It is giving the youth a home where they feel safe and secure and know that they can be there for a long period of time if needed.”
The Ministry say shelter beds are a last resort, and the priority is to find appropriate care, ideally a home, for youth in crisis.
Last week Scott told CKNW some shelters in the city are operated like refugee camps, and homeless youth prefer the street to using beds in facilities that are dirty, disgusting, and unsafe.