Connecting with youth to provide the care they need

Downtown Eastside Youth Outreach

​Meeting clients and patients where they are is a critical aspect of meaningful care. It is a core part of a new outreach team focused on youth aged 15 to 24.

Earlier this year, an outreach team launched a new model of care that focuses on connecting with young people in the Downtown Eastside, who may be homeless or precariously housed, and who may be wary of reaching out for care or support. 

“We see what we can do to help them in their environment and where they are comfortable at first," explains Emily Giguere, Clinical Planner, Youth Substance Use Services. “And then at some point, maybe they'll come here, to our outreach space on Powell Street, where they can access a variety of care and supports."

The team is growing with six additional staff and has a “home base" in the neighbourhood it serves, and that space is a place to offer connection to further supports for their clients.

The onus to seek out care is not placed on the youth who need support. Outreach staff go to them and begin building rapport and trust. That trust may lead to a young person becoming open to accepting help.

At the new space, a young person may receive supports, such as  primary care (including wound care, opiate agonist therapy and referral to specialists), help with accessing housing, obtaining and replacing identification, support with medication, connection to cultural services, and accessing sacred medicines and teachings. Services are free.

“This is an approach informed by youth," says Lizzy Ambler, Operations Director, Community Health Area six and Program Lead for Adult, Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use. “Youth provided input on what they wanted this care to look like, and requested a space where they could go if they were interested in further supports. They also helped to choose the space."

The team welcomed partners and other community members to the space at an informal open house in late August.

By listening to young people, Lizzy and the outreach team hope they connect with increasing numbers of youth and help provide the support they need.