Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Provincial Funding, Services Pledged for At-Risk Youth in Downtown Eastside

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

New Provincial Funding, Services Pledged for At-Risk Youth in Downtown Eastside

Article excerpt

Province boosts response for at-risk youth

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VANCOUVER - One year after a report revealed the tragic life and death of an aboriginal teenager in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the British Columbia government has committed $1.2 million to help youth in the troubled neighbourhood.

But the province's representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, said the funding falls short of what is needed to address the problems facing kids like Paige, the 19 year old at the centre of Turpel-Lafond's May 2015 report.

"Anything's better than nothing, but this is pretty minuscule," Turpel-Lafond said. "It still doesn't give me a lot to turn to the kids that are on the street today and say, 'Something different has arrived.'"

Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux announced Tuesday that $1.2 million, earmarked in the latest budget, would go toward services for at-risk youth in the Downtown Eastside.

She said $800,000 will fund a dedicated adolescent-services unit in the impoverished neighbourhood, focusing on teens caught in a cycle of intravenous drug use, homelessness and prostitution.

Eight new positions will be added to the unit, plus two more with a recently created rapid response team, while $400,000 will permit partner organizations to expand outreach services for youth.

The changes, which follow a ministry review of the files of 124 young people around the Downtown Eastside, also include plans for the development of a low-barrier shelter for the most troubled youth in the area.

The shelter would have a maximum of five beds and is targeted to open in late 2017.

Cadieux said other shelters require entrants to stop using alcohol or drugs or promise to enter a detox program, which can push away high-risk youth. The aim of a low-barrier or "no questions asked" shelter is to gain kids' trust so staff can help them access services when they're ready. …

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