Young people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver and struggling with mental-health and addictions challenges will get better access to care and supports to help them find a pathway to recovery and a better life.

As part of one of the largest expansions in youth mental-health and addictions supports, 28 new youth community care beds will be a part of a new program at Covenant House Vancouver to help young, unhoused people from 16 to 24.

“At-risk children and young people who face mental-health and substance-use challenges need a safe and supportive place to live that connects them with the care they need to start their healing journey,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The new Sanctuary program at Covenant House Vancouver will ensure that more young people have a safe place to shelter, stabilize and get the treatment they need in order to pave a better path for their life.”

These community support beds are low-barrier beds for high-risk young people, including those who are street-entrenched, providing wraparound care for young people who have significant substance-use challenges and undiagnosed or untreated mental-health issues.

“The Covenant House Vancouver team is dedicated to serving youth in our community with relentless support, unconditional love and utmost respect,” said Deb Lester, executive director, Covenant House Vancouver. “The opening of the Sanctuary program will offer young people the support they need to meet them where they are in their journey toward health and wellness.”

The new Sanctuary program will open in June 2024 and will be the lowest-barrier program of care offered by Covenant House Vancouver, helping fill the gap of supports needed specifically for unhoused young people. The purpose of the program is to give young people, who present with significant substance-use and mental-health concerns, the opportunity to stabilize and identify the recovery pathway that will work for them. This may include more comprehensive mental-health and addictions care, as well as stable housing and social supports.

The 2023 provincewide Point in Time Homeless Counts showed 8% of those recorded were under age 25. It also found that almost half of more than 4,800 counted first experienced homelessness as a youth.

“Safety, shelter and wraparound supports are essential for youth seeking healing and recovery,” said Grace Lore, Minister of Children and Family Development. “The new Sanctuary program by Covenant House Vancouver will change and save lives for youth with low-barrier access to service, health care, counselling, peer support and connection to other community supports.”

In addition to the 28 new beds, 33 new full-time employees, such as youth workers, peer support workers, a social worker and a counsellor, will be hired to support the program. Youth can self-refer or be referred by a service provider. Five beds will be reserved for emergency-room referrals.

Young people in the Sanctuary program can also benefit from other resources at Covenant House Vancouver, such as:

  • stable housing with wraparound supports;
  • in-house counselling with sessions available as needed;
  • addictions treatment supports tailored for youth;
  • primary care health services on site through a partnership with Foundry;
  • Peer and clinical support, as well as other life-saving assistance;
  • meals seven days a week;
  • access to computers;
  • connections to long-term care and support programs;
  • direct connections to income assistance, as well as the YMCA Career Zone to help young people on their path to receiving supports and supporting themselves; and
  • access to amenities, such as the gymnasium, music room and wellness room.

The Province is investing approximately $5 million over the next two years to operate the Sanctuary program.

This expansion of community support beds for youth is part of the Province’s work to improve mental-health and addictions care for children and youth and is supported by the Budget 2023 investment of $236 million over three years in new and expanded addictions care for youth and young adults.


Dr. Mike Norbury, senior medical director, Vancouver Community, Vancouver Coastal Health –

“Vancouver Coastal Health is very pleased to partner with the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and Covenant House Vancouver on this new and innovative program for young people in our region. The Sanctuary program will ensure we’re providing our clients with essential supports and access to services so they can successfully meet their immediate health-care needs and long-term care goals.”

Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing –

“The B.C. government takes a housing-first approach so that people facing homelessness have a better chance of moving forward with their lives. Once housed, youth will get the support services they need through Covenant House Vancouver so they can focus on their mental and physical health, education, employment and community connections that they need to thrive.”

Brenda Bailey, MLA for Vancouver False-Creek –

“It is heartbreaking to see young people living on the streets, feeling hopeless about the future. The degree of risk these youth are exposed to is unacceptable. The Sanctuary program will provide accessible supports and a safe space to stay, so street-involved youth can start their journey to healing in a way that works for them.”

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2017, the Province has opened 599 publicly funded substance-use beds, including 72 youth substance-use beds, helping fill a long-standing gap in youth bed-based treatment services. The 28-bed Sanctuary program at Covenant House Vancouver, opening in June 2024, will add to this total, with many more to come.
  • In 2022, government announced a historic expansion of youth addiction services in every health authority, including new and expanded programs across health authorities.
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