The young people who come to Covenant House Vancouver face many obstacles to achieving independence. The majority of street youth have experienced physical, sexual and or emotional abuse, often at the hands of the adults responsible for taking care of them. Likewise, Vancouver's downtown streets can be dangerous. Sexual exploitation, drug abuse, poverty and illness are commonplace on the streets and many of our youth are re-victimized there, having fled one unsafe situation only to find their circumstances often worse.
Combined with these traumas and often because of them, is the prevalence of mental illness amongst our youth. A wide range of mental illnesses, ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to bi-polar disorder to drug-induced psychosis, plague our youth in growing numbers and are often left untreated with devastating impacts. In addition to mental illness, our young people also struggle with addiction and substance abuse. Homeless young people often use drugs and alcohol as a way to "numb" the pain they experience in their lives.