When we are asked, “What is the Rights of Passage (ROP) program all about?” The simplest way to explain it is that ROP is about building the life skills, specific to each youth, that they need in order to make a successful transition to living independently.
The life skills that one youth may need to be successful, can be quite different than another’s. That’s why, at Covenant House Vancouver, we take a one-size-fits-one approach and tailor a plan for each youth that will help them to succeed.
Many youth come to Covenant House with survival skills that they have developed for life on the street. When they arrive at ROP, we sit down with them to access if the skills that got them here are now going to serve them well in the future. For example, one youth arrived in ROP with savings in their bank account, so at first glance, they seem to be able to budget. However, if they saw something in a store that would bring them immediate gratification, they would spend their savings on it. So, we sit down with that youth and help them learn how to budget, so that they can, for example, make rent and buy food, and if they have some disposable income available, they can treat themselves, while still staying on track.
There are many fundamental skills that the average person takes for granted. But, for youth who lack support and nurturing adults, these skills never get taught to them. The range of skills that the ROP program provides for youth can range from learning how to tie your shoes and realizing that in the grocery store, hamburger meat is called ground beef, to how to be competent at cooking and learning the importance of self-care. It truly is a one-size-fits-one approach.
Included in the fundamental life skills that ROP teaches are extremely valuable life skills like how to rent without getting scammed. The Rent Smart program teaches youth their rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as the rights and responsibilities of the landlord, so that once youth secure housing, they can maintain that stability.
Another important life skill is cooking. The Pender building renovation will provide us with a training kitchen, where we will be able to immerse youth in training that will give them the confidence they need to cook for themselves, and to be able to entertain guests.
ROP provides youth with much more flexibility and freedom than the Crisis Program, because we want youth to build the confidence needed to successfully transition to independence. Youth are responsible for making their own breakfasts and lunches, but there is a set time for dinner that is provided for them. Of course, there are exceptions to accommodate situations, such as school and work. There is also an activity board where youth are notified about outings and activities that they can participate in.
Despite the challenge of housing costs and availability, youth continue to graduate from ROP to independence. We had a youth who came to the Crisis Program, from Northern Canada, and really struggled with the structure of that program. She then moved to the ROP program where, given the space to be more independent, she thrived. She learned budgeting skills that were very important to her. Recently, she graduated from ROP into a home, where she rents a room that is near her employment. Not only was she able to transition to independence, but she was able to budget enough money to support family back home.
We are very proud of the youth who are in the ROP program. Although it can feel daunting to be able to achieve the life that you deserve, the youth in the ROP program show amazing resilience, and commitment. These success stories are only possible, because of the amazing support that we receive from our donors, and the community at large. We are very grateful for your support.