Homeless youth left with no shelters in South Van
Ages 18 and under struggle to find emergency cover this winter as new shelter once again doesn't accept youth
By EDMUND HAYLEY
In contrast to other parts of the city, South Vancouver lacks winter emergency shelters available for youth.
Homelessness Services Association of BC announced it extended the opening of emergency shelters in Metro Vancouver due to an extreme weather alert set out by the City of Vancouver. However, South Vancouver’s only shelter, Marpole Neighbourhood House, is restricted to ages 19 and above.
Marpole Neighbourhood House, which opened in 2019, is a non-profit organization that offers shelter to seniors, youth, communities, and families. The neighbourhood house offers a variety of programs.
Compare and contrast
Nilda Borrino, executive director of Marpole Neighbourhood House, said it is designated as an extreme warming shelter, and offers overnight accommodation to people when the weather gets cold.
“It’s only at zero degrees that people can come in,” Borrino said. “And they have a cot to sleep on.” The overnight guests, who receive blankets and a meal, can stay from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m..
Borrino said a lot of homeless individuals located near the Fraser River found the trek to the previous emergency shelter at the YMCA near Langara a hassle to get to, which is why Marpole Neighbourhood House decided it would open an emergency shelter.
“Because we’re open, people come and have coffee, as we get to know our neighbours quite a bit. And we know that in this neighbourhood, there are very limited homeless resources, most of them are centered in the Downtown Eastside,” Borrino said.
Some homeless residents wish South Vancouver would offer shelters to youth.
Covenant House, a non-profit youth housing organization in Vancouver, assists people between the ages of 16 and 25 who are experiencing homelessness. Unlike the neighbourhood house, Covenant House offers unlimited stays to residents. It remains open all week, except for a few hours on Wednesdays and Fridays during staff meetings.
Covenant House offers temporary housing, a drop-in centre, mental health services and a substance use program, which is part of a new pilot. There is also an emergency shelter program during the cold months of the year.
Jordana Corenblum, clinical counsellor at Covenant House, said Covenant House provides bedding during weather emergencies so “people can get off the streets when it’s dangerous.”
Corenblum said Covenant House focuses on young people to protect them from various dangers they might encounter on the streets. “Youth very often did not feel safe in older shelters, shelters for older people,” Corenblum said, “Things can get aggressive, there can be violence. It is really important. One of our number one values here is sanctuary, which basically just means safety for everybody.”
First hand experience
Kali Sedgemore, a youth peer outreach worker and former homeless youth, said there are not enough youth shelters in Metro Vancouver, and facilities are limited.
Sedgemore said finding a way to survive, as well as finding the services available such as Covenant House is essential.
“Don’t sit in the freezing cold because it just makes things worse,” Sedgemore said. “There are people that care, and they are willing to help.”