“I won’t tell you its enough. I will tell you its what we are doing today.”
The Ministry of Children and Family Development is making some moves to deal with vulnerable youth on the streets in the Downtown East Side.
After reviewing files and getting feedback from its new rapid response team, the Ministry is making some changes.
A new unit will be created that will be dedicated to helping youth who are homeless, IV drug users, or working in the sex trade.
The Cambie Street Unit will also be open late into the night to provide easier access to kids in trouble.
The recently set up rapid response team also found a shortfall of personnel working on the street to make contact with homeless youth.
$400,000 is targeted to address that.
All in all, $1.2 million is being tabled to get all this done.
New youth shelter in the works
Separately funded, Minister Stephanie Cadieux says a new low barrier, no-questions-asked youth specific shelter is also coming.
She says the new youth specific shelter will likely only have five shelter beds.
Despite Cadieux admitting at any given moment they deal with 20 to 40 high risk youth on the downtown eastside streets.
“Generally speaking this type of specialized resource would not have a large number of beds. Probably five would be a maximum.”
When questioned about the actual number of youth that are on the street at any given time, Cadieux confirmed there are likely more than five.
“Oh absolutely. That is what we have identified. We know that at any given time there are probably at least 20 kids in the Downtown East Side that are the most challenged.”
Cadiuex says she has not run this by BC’s Children’s watchdog whose damning report sparks these changes.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to discuss this in detail with the representative. I am sure she will welcome the changes and I am sure she will critisize that they are not enough. That is her role as the advocate to continue to push for more and better and I respect that.”
Children & Youth Watchdog not impressed
“This is the same old story. There are kids in hotels. No there is not. There is kids in SROs. No there is not.”
BC’s Children and Youth watchdog is not all impressed with the changes saying kids are being abandoned on the street at the mercy of drugs, and predators.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says she is not surprised the Minister of Children and Family Development didn’t run any of this by her.
“Because she knows very well what my response will be. Five beds in 2017? What are we supposed to say to the kids on the street today? You are just forsaken? It is just completely unacceptable. I just don’t even think this is a response that merits a reply. A year later we are going to get some staff on the job? That is just not enough.”
Turpel-Lafond says kids have been left on the street on the downtown eastside while government services work bankers hours.
She says this is just the ministry doing what it always does failing to act unless it is forced to and even then it is not enough.
Opposition critic: “Efforts fall short.”
It’s not a half measure solution, Doug Donaldson says; with five shelter beds planned for over 20 high risk youth it’s hardly a quarter effort.
But what Donaldson says also needs to be done is to put more resources into helping kids-at-risk in rural areas before they make that journey to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“The services that are needed in those areas are well documented, whether they’re youth mental health services that are lacking, whether it’s addiction services, or whether it’s simply having front-line ministry officers staffed to their full compliment so the social workers can get out there and do their job.”
Donaldson also says a lack of aboriginal involvement in decision-making needs to be addressed by the children’s ministry.