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Human Rights Day

December 10th is Human Rights Day. This year’s theme is “Freedom, Equality and Justice for All.”

This is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). There are 30 articles contained within this declaration. To help illustrate the importance of this day and declaration, here are some of the articles contained in that document:

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
  • Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • Everyone has the right to education.
  • Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

However, the promise of the UDHR, of dignity and equality in rights, has been under a sustained assault in recent years. As the world faces challenges new and ongoing — pandemics, conflicts, exploding inequalities, morally bankrupt global financial system, racism, climate change — the values, and rights enshrined in the UDHR provide guideposts for our collective actions that do not leave anyone behind.”

The Sad Reality

The unfortunate reality that exists in the world is that not everyone abides by the declaration.

Discrimination is evident in the homeless population. For example, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, gender non-binary and Two-Spirited youth are overrepresented in the homeless community: 

  • 25 – 40% of homeless youth are 2SLGBTQAI+
  • Family rejection is the most common cause of 2SLGBTQAI+ youth homelessness

While only 6% of BC’s total population are Indigenous (according to the 2016 Census), about 39% of people experiencing homelessness self-identify as Indigenous. 

For transgender youth, receiving an income assistance cheque, filling out a job application, and getting a driver’s license all require your legal name, so trans youth are constantly being reminded about the person and the life that they no longer identify with. The cost of legally changing your name and identity is often out of reach for many trans youth. In addition, trans youth can face transphobia when looking for housing and mistrust can accompany that phobia, so trans youth may lose out to cisgender applicants.

CHV Is an Advocate for Human Rights

Covenant House Vancouver’s purpose is to serve all youth with relentless support, absolute respect, and unconditional love. We help youth experiencing homelessness, and protect and safeguard all youth in need. We advocate for youth and teach them how to advocate for themselves.

We strive to show 2SLGBTQAI+ youth that they are safe and loved. We do this through a variety of therapeutic and extra-curricular services and activities, such as:

With love and support, trans youth can thrive and enrich our communities. Youth like Jaden.

For Indigenous youth, in 2022, we found that: 

  • 29% of the population we served self-identified as being Indigenous 
  • 67 Indigenous youth were new to our programs and services 
  • 127 Indigenous youth accessed our Drop-In Centre, and 179 Indigenous youth were supported by our Outreach teams  
  • 45 Indigenous youth stayed in our Crisis Program 

Nearly 1/3 of the youth population we serve is Indigenous and we have an obligation and responsibility to be able to provide holistic care, which may include spiritual and cultural supports. As an organization, we actively participate in educating ourselves, and ask ourselves, how can we do better? Where we aren’t experts in our services, we connect with local organizations and additional Indigenous and cultural supports for the Indigenous youth who come to Covenant House.  

We’d like to highlight four organizations that we learn so much from, often work with, and connect our Indigenous youth to: 

In addition, the Manager of Complex Support Services, worked to get two Indigenous medicine cabinets commissioned, one in the Crisis Program and one in the Wellness/Spiritual Room, with a third one underway for the Drop-in Centre. The Indigenous medicine cabinets would be in communal areas, stocked with sage, sweetgrass, cedar, tobacco, and other plant-based remedies and herbal preparations, for youth to access as they need, without having to ask and have someone else source the items for them. 

The Indigenous medicine cabinets are an important component to the care that we provide for this demographic. It helps Indigenous youth foster a connection to their culture and traditions and allows them to practice in a spiritual and ceremonial way that honours their culture, their heritage and their ancestral traditions.  

Navigating the challenging path toward independent living is a journey filled with obstacles for youth experiencing homelessness. CHV recognizes the multifaceted nature of these challenges and has developed a wraparound approach to ensure that young people not only find housing but also successfully retain it.

At the core of CHV’s initiatives are two groundbreaking housing programs: the Crisis Program and the Rights of Passage program. The Crisis Program, with a capacity of 60 beds, serves as a lifeline for youth who are at immediate risk of, or currently experiencing, homelessness on Vancouver’s streets. Providing wraparound care, the Crisis Program offers a safe haven, and acts as a bridge to support youth during their transition to stable independence. 

Excitingly, the supportive, independent living program, Rights of Passage (ROP), is expanding. With the ongoing renovation of the Pender building, ROP will increase its capacity from hosting 25 to 44 youth, by early 2024. ROP’s self-contained units offer not just housing but a community where youth can experience autonomy and security while working on their educational pursuits, career aspirations, health, and wellness. 

CHV has also partnered with Hollyburn Properties, to provide three fully furnished apartments to ROP participants. This partnership allows youth to practice essential life skills, such as applying for an apartment, paying rent, and communicating with a building manager. The financial model, including “mock renting” in the ROP program, ensures that the youth are prepared for independent living by the end of their stay. These funds are given back to the youth as they exit the program as a nest egg, which can be used to help offset the cost of transitioning to independent living. 

Beyond housing, CHV ensures that youth have access to a full range of services, including recreationart therapycounsellingcase management, and life skills. Dedicated housing workerslife skills workers, and community transition workers are available 24/7 to address any questions, big or small. 

These are just some of the ways that CHV abides by the UHDR. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to learn more about our programs, services, and support of vulnerable youth, who strive for a future they deserve that includes their human rights.