One of the biggest differences between the two programs is that Vancouver uses a six-step framework that guides youth’s progress in the program. Each step brings new rights and responsibilities, as well as privileges. These steps are geared towards helping a youth enter and acclimatize to ROP and then move through the program in a supported way.
In order to better understand program elements and rules, and the way in which the two programs are different, it’s important to understand the Steps program.
With the recent change to the length of stay, the steps were expanded from five to six. The first step is designed to take a minimum of four weeks, while each of the other steps takes at least eight weeks. If it appears that a youth is going to take more than three extra weeks on any step (besides Step 6), the support team will meet with the youth to discuss the issues. It takes a minimum of 36 weeks to complete the six steps, which are designed to be completed in a 12-month period. Youth may spend longer than the minimum on any one step as long as they are working toward the basic requirements of the program and their own life goals. Given the recent change, the new Step 6 has no completion deadline (except for the age mandate) as long as a youth is working on their program.
“The steps sort of help you showcase your commitment to a certain goal. It sort of teaches you ‘Hey, if you want to achieve something, you need commitment; you need to show initiative, you need to show responsibility to be able to progress’.” — “Kevin”, 26, former ROP participant, Covenant House Vancouver
Homeless Hub Thoughts:
We particularly like this model. It was originally designed to be completed in a year as the Step program only recently extended its length of stay option. This means organizations who are limited in their time frame can still adopt this model for themselves.
Often, programs create a set of expectations and work to push participants through to graduation. Markers of success are completion rates and number of graduates. At Covenant House Vancouver, rather than a forced set of graduation requirements, the Steps foster a sense of independence and responsibility while still providing supports. The incentive of an increased graduation bursary means that youth are encouraged to stay at least through Step 5 (36 weeks), which is a good length of time in which to provide some core lessons and life skills.
The inclusion of Step 6 and the expansion of the program to allow youth to stay until their 25th birthdays really put the focus of the Steps on the youth and their development rather than on graduation.
The way in which youth are challenged to take on not just personal responsibility but also to get involved in and show leadership in their community is a really nice way to build self-esteem and independence in youth. It also allows for community members to develop another –and more positive—understanding of homeless youth.
 In the STEPS video that accompanies the toolkit you may hear references to five steps as we filmed during the transition period.