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Help is available for young people at risk

Access Youth Outreach is proposing Langley Township help it to expand its services.
Jerome Bouvier

For $50,000, the Township of Langley could provide young people at risk with one-on-one help.

The proposal comes from Access Youth Outreach Services, the non-profit group that sends a “teen bus,” a donated TransLink vehicle, out at night in the Langleys and Tri-Cities areas to provide everything from food and  blankets to drug education and crisis intervention for young at-risk people from 12 and 23 years.

In the Tri-Cities, the service includes referrals to an after-hours Individual Case Worker (ICW) for one-to-one assessments and support, but not in Langley.

It would cost about $50,000 a year to provide a full-time caseworker for Langley, Access executive director Jerome Bouvier told Langley Township council during a presentation late last year.

“It’s a really valuable position,” said Bouvier.

The Tri-City service has helped more than 100 young people over two-and-a-half years, a written presentation to council by Access estimated.

“They [the outreach workers] engage youth in developing a goal plan that meets their particular needs and accomplish specific goals,” the report stated.

“The engagement worker connects and actively supports youth who are at risk, assesses needs, works with the youth to determine a plan, advocates for youth and becomes a link to/and collaborates with other community resources.”

It is a seven-day-a-week job, most of it done after hours, Bouvier said.

Township council and the other communities served by Access have been “very supportive” with capital grants that pay for things like bus maintenance and other supplies, Bouvier said, but a full-time youth outreach worker would require an operating grant.

In 2013, the Access buses served 2,038 young people in Langley City and Township.

The written presentation to council gave examples of the kind of problems the buses encounter in the Langleys, including a 14-year-old female victim of sexual assault who was selling herself to support a crack cocaine habit, an extremely intoxicated 13-year-old in a park who needed her stomach pumped, a gang attack on a youth (which ended when the bus staff intervened), and an “arranged fight” at a local drop-in centre involving 30 to 40 young people, many armed, and most (70 per cent) on ecstasy. It ended peacefully after RCMP attended.

In response to a council question, Bouvier said in the Langleys, about 60 per cent of kids in need are located in the Township, 40 per cent in the city.

A breakdown provided by Access shows most are male (about two-thirds) and Caucasian (about nine in 10) with 13- to 14-year-olds making up the largest contingent (one in three).

Access used to be known as PoCoMo Youth Services, but changed the name last year to better reflect its mandate.

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Dan Ferguson has worked for a variety of print and broadcast outlets in Canada and the U.S.
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