An estimated 700 homeless youth (16-24) live in Vancouver. While many have mental health issues, these young people can be difficult to treat because they are highly migratory and tend to mistrust and avoid traditional support systems. Treating homeless youth is further complicated in the Downtown Eastside by drug use, the sex trade and a lack of safe housing. The Inner City Youth Mental Health Program (ICY) began as a St. Paul’s outreach strategy to provide comprehensive mental health and addictions services for young people who are homeless or precariously housed.
Established in 2007, the Inner City Youth (ICY) Outreach Program looks beyond clinical concerns to provide the social support and life skills young people need to transition back to the community. Still, by 2014, youth in crisis were making more than 1800 annual visits to St. Paul’s Hospital emergency department and accounted for 20% of the mental health and addiction related visits.
In consultation with youth, Dr. Mathias set out to create an open and accessible space designed to attract young people on the move who seek short-term care or might avoid care altogether. The Ministry of Health’s 2014-15 investment to support programs and services for people with severe mental illness or substance use issues was the opportunity Dr. Mathias needed to make The Granville Youth Health Centre a reality.
As the launch of their innovative outpatient clinic approached, the ICY team enlisted Signals to develop the tools they needed to communicate their vision and services to a broad audience of youth and their families, health professionals and community partners.
Through a co-collaboration process with the ICY team members and participants in the program, we helped develop a vision and identified the characteristics of the program that make it successful. From there, we created a visual identity and tagline for the program. and designed the look and feel of the Granville Youth Health Centre.
Sometimes called nature’s perfect shape, a regular hexagon has sides that are all the same length and all vertices have the same angle. This means that any sized hexagon can fit together without gaps — what’s known as a tessellation. This symbol seemed a natural fit for the interdisciplinary ICY team. And the tagline ‘Connecting Inner City Youth with Wellness’ expressed the team’s mission: to help young people find their path to wellness and independence.
The Granville Youth Health Centre is expected to serve up to 1,200 youth by 2016, handling a total of 6,000 to 8,000 visits annually. By applying St. Paul’s unique integration of care, research, teaching and outreach, we hope The Centre will serve as a new model of care for youth in British Columbia.