The Importance of Low-Barrier Services

Covenant House Vancouver’s Community Support Services (CSS) are often the first point of contact between vulnerable youth and Covenant House Vancouver (CHV). CSS is comprised of our Drop-In Centre and Outreach services.

These services are categorized as low-barrier services. But what does that mean, and why are low-barrier services so crucial to youth who are, or at risk of becoming, homeless?

To answer these questions and to discuss our CSS services, we spoke to Jon Spiller, Manager of Complex Support Services at Covenant House.

Low Barrier

Jon: “Low barrier basically means removing any obstacle that’s stopping a youth from accessing our services. To come into the Drop-In Centre, the requirements are minimal — you just need to be within our age range of 16 –24. You don’t need to have a job, be in school, or have an income.”

There are very few youth-specific drop-in programs and services in Vancouver, but it is so important that youth have a space to come and feel safe.

Obstacles that Young People Face

Jon: “Many youth are persistently unhoused, and many have had negative experiences accessing support. It’s important for us to break down those barriers and regain their trust.”

Jon shared some of the obstacles that youth face:

  • Youth experiencing homelessness are often isolated and have limited networks
  • If youth live in an unsafe place they are at risk of becoming exploited
  • A youth’s mental health can be an obstacle
  • The toxic drug supply
  • Lack of finances
  • Increased numbers of vulnerable youth, including newcomers
  • The stigma of homelessness can make it difficult to obtain services needed

How CHV’s Services Reduce Barriers


The Outreach team builds trusting relationships by meeting young people where they are at and by being a consistent, supportive presence in their lives. Travelling on foot, they offer food, support by connecting youth to services, hygiene supplies, and minor medical attention. The Outreach team invites youth to come to the Drop-In Centre for a hot meal, shower, or to help with anything they wish to work on.

The Outreach team makes sure that young people know that they aren’t alone and that there are trustworthy people who want to help them.

Drop-In Centre

Jon: “The Drop-In Centre is open seven days a week and provides youth with showers, clothing, laundry, and food. We provide harm reduction supplies, healthy meals, and access to computers. Youth can play games, watch TV, and sleep. Youth use the Drop-In Centre during the day to stay safe. It’s a space where they can just come and recharge.”

Also located within the Drop-In Centre is Covey’s Cupboard — a free grocery pantry, where youth can come in to choose the food items they need. Covey’s Cupboard has fresh, frozen, dried, packaged, and canned supplies, to help keep youth nourished.

There is a quiet room where youth who are either tired or overstimulated can go and rest.

The Drop-In Centre also provides one-on-one support from our dedicated staff and counsellors for personalized attention, and access to health services to address the holistic well-being of youth.

In addition to harm reduction supplies, a young person might find the courage to reach out for help with their substance use. When that happens, our staff are there to listen and guide them towards our new Foundations program. It’s a warm and welcoming seven-bed program tailored specifically for young folks who want to take steps to address their substance use, in a supportive environment.

You Can Help!

As we expand our low-barrier programs and services, we are not just filling gaps in services but building bridges to a more inclusive and supportive future. Our Outreach teams continue to be the friendly faces in the community, and with the Drop-In Centre’s seven-day-a-week services, CHV ensures that no day is a missed opportunity for support.

Give today and help us continue to have these crucial low-barrier services available to vulnerable youth in our community.