The CMHA-Cowichan Valley Branch Youth Outreach Team sees many youth face suffering from substance use, precarious housing and mental health issues. The Youth Outreach Team is there to meet them where they are, every step of the way. An integral part of our mobile Youth Outreach Team is 'Vicki' our outreach van. 'Vicki the Van' is a black 2003 Honda Odyssey. Vicki has logged over 210,000km serving the vulnerable youth of the Cowichan Valley.
This is a typical day in the life of 'Vicki the Youth Outreach Van'.
8:00am: Youth Outreach teams arrive at the Open Door Youth Services Centre, 371 Festubert St. The property is tidied up of any debris from campers and youth found sleeping on the front steps are gently wakened with the offer a warm drink, snack and a chance to use the washroom.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the doors are opened and youth begin arriving to shower, do laundry, see the on-site nurse practitioner, and engage with CMHA Youth Outreach Workers over a breakfast sandwich, muffin and warm drink.
To serve youth camped out elsewhere in the community, Vicki (now with a plexiglass COVID-19 divider installed) is stocked up for the day with juice boxes, bottled water, granola bars, first aid supplies, donated clothing, hygiene items and other supplies for distribution. Youth Outreach Workers check the outreach phone voicemail to see anyone has reached out for help during the night. The day begins based on these texts, emails or phone calls, and includes new COVID duties such extra cleaning, sterilization etc.
9:00am: Mobile Youth Outreach head to Shawnigan Lake to drive a youth to see a child in Duncan and then drive them home again. Post trip COVID-19 cleaning is performed on Vicki and the team heads out again.
10:30am: Drive an unwell youth to the hospital and while there visit another youth that has no other family to care for them. COVID-19 cleaning is performed and they head out again.
11:30am: Drive across town to find a client in need. This is followed by a trip through Tim Hortons to grab a small snack and spend one-on-one time listening and talking at a local park. COVID-19 cleaning and Vicki heads out again.
1:00pm: Back to the Open Door for shift change and pick up the CMHA Outreach Nurse to visit homeless camps where youth are known to be living. There is concern for a youth that has not been seen for a while. The youth is located and a wellness check is performed. A message is delivered to another youth. Several youth spend an hour going through a supply of donated clothing from the back of the van while juice boxes and granola bars are distributed. During this time, Youth Outreach Workers have a chance to connect with youth and identify needs. One youth needs to be taken to taken to an appointment for urgent care and two others need a ride to the Overdose Prevention Site. Vicki gives them safe passage. Another COVID-19 cleaning and the team hits the road again.
3:00pm: A youth has found a treatment centre bed and needs a ride to Nanaimo. Belongings are loaded, tearful good-byes are said to friends and the Youth Outreach Team hits the road. Post trip COVID-19 cleaning is done and they head out again.
5:30pm: Another visit to a homeless camp, this time to give out warm meals donated by a community group! It is raining and a small supply of umbrella's and tarps are distributed. COVID-19 cleaning and the team heads out.
6:30pm: A call is received about a youth in a domestic violence situation. Since Duncan does not have a youth shelter or youth detox centre, a trip into Victoria and over the Malahat is made to deliver the youth to safety. Another COVID-19 cleaning and Vicki heads out again.
9:00pm: Off to the gas station to fill up the tank for tomorrow. Back to Open Door to clean and sterilize Vicki one final time for the day.
While this is just one typical day, the Youth Outreach van has also moved youth clients in and out of houses, driven home new babies and has seen many (pre-COVID) hugs and countless tears. When at-risk youth in the Cowichan Valley see Vicki the Van they know it's a point of contact for their urgent needs.
How can you help?
Last year, maintenance costs alone for Vicki exceeded $6,000. While, she has served the youth of the Cowichan Valley well, it is now time to look for a newer, younger, less costly Vicki. We are asking for your support to help us raise funds to replace our Youth Outreach Mini-Van. You can make a difference to the youth of the Cowichan Valley with a donation using our secure link below.