The search for Vancouver’s most vulnerable teens in the Downtown Eastside
Armed with harm-reduction supplies and a backpack full of treats, Carlos Mendez Espinoza and Kerry Ryan walk the gritty streets of the Downtown Eastside looking for Vancouver’s most vulnerable teenagers, who might be hiding in alleys, living in ramshackle tents, or couch-surfing in tiny hotel rooms.
As the first two employees of Vancouver Coastal Health’s new Downtown Eastside youth outreach team, they search for homeless young people. These young people usually have substance use and mental health problems, and often struggle with childhood trauma, sexual exploitation, and a lack of any healthy relationships in their lives.
“We walk from here towards downtown, mostly in this neighbourhood,” said Ryan, standing in an alley off Princess Avenue near Powell Street, behind the Downtown Community Health Centre where the new team is temporarily based.
“There is a huge need for it. There are so many young people down here and I think the population keeps growing as well. (We’re) filling in a gap in services.”
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