Journey Home - Addressing homelessness
The Journey Home Strategy is Kelowna's 5-year plan to address homelessness with a focus on ensuring everyone has a place to call home. The goal is to ensure a coordinated and easy to access system of care for those in Kelowna who have lost, or are at risk of losing their home.
The Strategy includes two parts:
Journey Home Strategy Community Report
The Community Report is designed to provide an overview of the Strategy and how it was developed.
Journey Home Strategy Technical Report
The Technical Report is a deeper dive into the exploration of Kelowna’s unique challenges and strengths which form a roadmap to implement the strategy.
For a brief overview, check out the Journey Home Strategy at-a-glance.
Driven by the community, for the community
The process for developing the Journey Home Strategy was designed to be community-driven and inclusive. Since the Journey Home engagement process began, we have heard valuable input from the community with over 2,000 points of engagement through community summits, design labs, public surveys and the Lived Experience Circle. For more on the process, review the Journey Home summary document.
The Journey Home Strategy - Top 10 Actions
The overall strategy proposes 35 specific actions to be implemented over the five-year span of the strategy. Within these actions, ten have emerged as highlights that demonstrate the commitment to change.
- Rollout a Backbone Organization solely dedicated to implementing the Journey Home Strategy by building community capacity and engaging in systems planning.
- Support the addition of 300 units of long-term supportive housing in purpose-built buildings targeted to support people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness with higher needs.
- Support people in the rental market through 500 new program spaces grounded in the Housing First model and the right to housing.
- Continue the Lived Experience Circle and Youth Advocates for Housing and formalize relationships to the Backbone Organization governance.
- Recognize accountability for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action in that Indigenous Homelessness is an ongoing form of colonialism.
- Launch the Upstream for Youth pilot in partnership with the School District to identify and support youth at risk of becoming homeless.
- Support efforts to increase treatment beds, especially for young people in Kelowna.
- Support innovative solutions to address the criminalization of homelessness such as a Community Court.
- Ensure a population focus is embedded in Strategy implementation; this includes youth, Indigenous, women, families, newcomers, LGBTQ2S+, seniors and men.
- Launch a Homelessness Innovation Lab to partner with the technology sector to develop solutions for information management and access, and data analysis.
Watch the full video series on YouTube.
The Journey Home Transition Team plays a vital role in maintaining community momentum and moving the strategy forward into implementation. The primary task of the Transition Team is to establish the Backbone Organization, including designing and establishing the governance structure; building an advocacy and funding strategy; securing funding; and building the foundation for the Backbone to form partnerships, and enter into agreements with community agencies and organizations. The Transition Team will work alongside the Youth Advocates for Housing and the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness to design the Journey Home Backbone Organization governance structure to ensure the voice of lived and living experience continues to guide and be at the forefront.
In order to provide diverse representation, the Transition Team is comprised of stakeholders representing a diversity of sectors, skills, knowledge, experience, along with a strong interest in homelessness prevention and the provision of affordable housing.
The Journey Home Transition Team is not a Committee of Council.
The Journey Home Task Force is a group of community members appointed by Kelowna City Council who are working to move the Journey Home strategy to reality. The Task Force’s goal is to lead the development of the long-term Journey Home strategy to ensure people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna have a clear path to the support they need, when they need it.
The Task Force will be supported by Dr. Alina Turner and Turner Strategies. Dr. Turner led the implementation of Canada’s first Homelessness Management Information System and has worked with a number of cities across Canada including Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary and Yellowknife on their plans to end homelessness. Turner Strategies has also partnered with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and A Way Home Canada to prepare Kelowna’s Journey Home plan.
The Journey Home Task Force meetings commenced with an orientation in late September 2017. The Task Force will continue to meet on a monthly basis through to the completion of the Strategy in 2018.
A Way Home Kelowna (AWH Kelowna), is guided by a steering committee with membership from the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, Canadian Mental Health Association - Kelowna, The Bridge Youth & Family Services, Westbank First Nation, United Way, City of Kelowna, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and the Central Okanagan Foundation.
Focused on identifying, developing, and implementing strategies to prevent and end youth homelessness in our community, AWH Kelowna is committed to ensuring that the needs of youth are prioritized and form an essential part of the Journey Home strategy. The strategy will be embedded into Journey Home, ensuring that the needs of young people are prioritized and that the unique responses required to address their needs are front and centre.
The project has four objectives:
- Develop, expand, and strengthen strategic cross sector partnerships to advance coordinated, systems level interventions for youth experiencing, or at-risk of, homelessness;
- Produce a community strategy and implementation plan to prevent and end youth homelessness;
- Test, adapt, document, and evaluate promising practices in strategic collaboration and community planning to address youth homelessness;
- Implement innovative models of youth engagement, empowering young people with lived experience of homelessness to be partners in transforming coordinated responses to youth homelessness.
How are youth with lived experience involved?
Just over 50 youth (12-25 year olds with a diverse range of lived experience) have been engaged to date through focus groups and one on one sessions. Youth identified that there's a lot of good work happening in Kelowna. Findings will be worked into the youth strategy implementation.
Having an advisory group of people who have experienced homelessness is crucial to ensure a broad scope of issues, barriers and potential solutions are identified. Those who are intimately familiar with homelessness, whether through their own experience or in supporting a loved one, hold valuable perspectives about what will realistically work in our local community to reduce homelessness.
The Lived Experience Circle will play a key role by helping to inform and guide the work of the Journey Home Task Force. The members will come together regularly and will be asked to provide insight on the strengths and gaps in the current homeless serving system.
If you are interested in sharing your expertise through the Lived Experience Circle, please email Journey Home.
While the City has taken a leadership role in the development of the Journey Home Strategy, an inclusive community driven process is essential to ensure a collective commitment to move the plan into action.
The City of Kelowna’s role is to:
- support the work of the Journey Home Task Force in developing a long-term community plan to address homelessness
- partner with various levels of government and services
- develop strong housing policies and incentives that support rental units and density
- balance the needs of all residents
Hiring a Social Development Manager in 2016 was one of the first steps in a process to bring together partners within the community to help address the growing issue of homelessness that is occurring across the country. While no one individual or agency is able to solve these complex social issues on their own, this dedicated City presence will contribute to the joint efforts of government, community groups, businesses and social agencies to address our community’s issues and develop a coordinated, strategic approach.
More than 50 community partners are working to address issues around housing and homelessness. Below are a few examples of programs making a difference one person at a time.
In the first six months, 32 individuals who accessed the storage program have moved on into housing. An increase of 26 individuals began using the shelter system for the first time after accessing the storage program.
For people living without homes, being able to store their belongings can be transformational. It offers an opportunity to connect with services like appointments and meals, without fear of losing their belongings.
Meet Geoff Haney, a Leon Street Worker at the Gospel Mission.
BC Housing is leading work with local service providers to use a coordinated approach to assess individuals’ needs and to support them into housing. The organization has more than 3000 units in Kelowna.
The City has partnered with BC Housing on seven projects by contributing land to BC Housing for projects like:
- Cardington Apartments
- Tutt Street Apartments
- Willowbridge Apartments
- New Gate Apartments
- Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society (i spa-us ki-low-na Heart of Kelowna)
Interior Health and the Kelowna RCMP partnered to create the Police and Crisis Team (PACT). A dedicated psychiatric nurse and specially trained RCMP officer who together form the mental health and substance use crisis intervention team.
PACT responded to 160 calls between March and July, 2017. With PACT responding to these calls, it helps to divert visits to the Emergency Room (ER), and connection to services through personalized attention.
SEE:kelowna is a collaborative project between Metro Community and the Kelowna Museums Society. Launched in August 2017, the project shares stories from community members whose lives have been affected by homelessness.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) currently has 21 people in supported housing through their Housing First program. The organization also runs Willowbridge transitional housing (40 beds), and other housing assistance programs.
"..once they're housed then they have a worker who can find them. They've got a place to store their stuff. We can start helping organize. We can connect them to brain injury services. We can connect them to those things that help them..." Keni Milne, Housing First Team Lead.
The City provided CMHA a $6,500 community social development grant in 2017. This grant provided partial funding for operations.
Kelowna has a lot of “feet on the street,” with City of Kelowna Bylaw Enforcement and RCMP working with Park Ambassadors, Downtown Patrol teams, private security and Transit Security to keep streets and parks clean and safe.
Bylaw Enforcement and RCMP focus on making connections with people living without homes. They encourage and support them to access services while balancing the need to ensure that bylaws are followed to help keep the community safe for everyone.
There is no singular cause of homelessness in any community. Much like every person is unique, every experience that leads a person into homelessness is unique.
However, there are socio economic trends that can be identified. Understanding the root causes of poverty and homelessness in our city is important to find viable solutions.
Trends that have historically affected homelessness in Kelowna include peaks in population growth and housing supply, higher migration rates into Kelowna from other areas, tourism (less rentals for locals), aging populations and growing income divides.
An end to homelessness does not mean we will never have someone who needs emergency shelter or loses housing: that would not be realistic.
Our goal is to prevent homelessness; and when it occurs, ensuring it is rare, short-lived and non reoccurring. Rather than declaring an end to homelessness, many communities strive to achieve Functional Zero. This can be achieved when housing, beds and services are available for everyone who needs it. The goal is permanent housing and emergency shelters are only for temporary needs.
There may always be families and individuals that will need emergency, transitional or supportive shelter. What we want is to have a response system that can act quickly to move people from homelessness to being properly supported.
Annual Homelessness Trends
To understand the extent of homelessness in our community, the diverse dynamics involved in homelessness need to be addressed. At any given time, the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community can ebb and flow, but there are ways we can determine the level of supports needed. We need to focus on the numbers of people experiencing homelessness throughout the year, rather than only at a given point-in-time.
Extreme Core Housing Need: This number includes those in our community who may be at risk to lose their home as they are likely spending more than 50% of their household income on rental fees or housing costs, who earn less than $20,000/year. This data comes from the 2016 Census, Statistics Canada.
Transitionally Homeless: those who may experience homelessness short-term, generally less than a month.
Episodically Homeless: those who move in and out of homelessness.
Chronically Homeless: those in our community who have been on the streets for a long time, potentially years.
Point in Time Count
A Point in Time (PIT) count is a snapshot of those experiencing homelessness in our community. The data is important to identify trends and key issues related to homelessness. Policy makers, service providers and funders use the data to inform planning for housing related programs and services. The last Point in Time Count was completed in 2016 with a new count expected to be completed in 2018.
While the Point in Time count in an important tool, it is just a snapshot of the homelessness situation at one particular time. While it may capture an accurate look at those who are chronic or episodically homeless, it will likely only capture a percentage of those who are transitionally homeless. To develop a long-term strategy and effectively plan for the future, a broader look at homelessness including those who are at risk of losing their home, needs to be considered.
To develop a plan that will be successful at a local level, it is important to explore best practices that have been identified in other communities. Two emerging best practices will be at the core of Kelowna's Journey Home plan:
Housing First is the approach of providing housing for individuals in need without barriers due to circumstances, mental health needs or addictions. It centers on moving people who are experiencing homelessness into housing as a first priority, and then providing wrap around supports as needed. The idea behind Housing First is that people are better able to improve their well-being and address individual needs such as income or sobriety if they are first housed.
Systems planning or a system of care is the formal approach of coordinating service delivery at a community wide level. The goal of systems planning is to:
- have a clear understanding of who is becoming homeless and why
- based on that clear understanding, identify their needs and design coordinated responses
- use a “no wrong door” approach (no matter where a person turns for support, any agency can connect an individual with the services they need)
- promote system unity by aligning services to avoid duplication, improve information sharing and increase efficiency
- develop early intervention strategies
- ensure a community commitment with partnerships to design policies, strategies, and investments
- enhance housing stability though partnerships
- provide easy access to crisis intervention and support
Housing is a community wide issue that is being addressed on multiple levels through partnerships, land contributions, policy, zoning, grants and incentives.
- Partnership housing with BC Housing to identify property/building options – to address emerging needs in Kelowna, such as emergency housing and single room occupancy buildings. The City has provided land to BC Housing for seven projects including Willowbridge Transitional Housing, Cardington and New Gate apartments.
- Housing incentives for purpose built rental housing through grants and tax relief - the City recently increased the funding available for 2017 and 2018, as well as weighting the incentive more heavily towards family-friendly housing. Since 2001, more than $2.5 million has been directed to the Housing Opportunities Fund. From the fund, more than $420,000 in annual grants are provided to developers of purpose built rental housing.
- Ensuring a reasonable housing supply is available - the City continually monitors and reports development trends in our community and considers the availability of appropriate zoned land for the development of various forms of housing as acknowledged in the Official Community Plan. In 2016, 489 units of purpose built rental housing were issued building permits and in 2017, 1,083 units were issued building permits.
- Council endorsed the 2017 theme area for the Healthy City Strategy, ‘Healthy Housing’ - this is a joint initiative with Interior Health focused on improving health outcomes through improved housing policies and practices.
Youth homelessness is defined by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness as:
Referring to the situation and experience of young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are living independently of parents and/ or caregivers, but do not have the means or ability to acquire a stable, safe or consistent residence.
The causes and impacts of youth homelessness are distinct from adult homelessness, as such plans and interventions must be tailored to youth. Youth experience homelessness in distinct way: they’re often less visible on the street, and more likely ort find alternative, and often temporary accommodations such as couch surfing. Many young people lack the experience of living independently and at the same time may be in the throes of significant development (social, physical, emotional, cognitive) changes.
All people, including our youth, have the right to the essentials of life, including adequate housing, food safety, education and justice.
A Way Home - Kelowna (AWH-K) is developing a strategy and implementation plan to prevent, reduce and address youth homelessness in our community. AWH-K is being embedded into the Journey Home Strategy to ensure a consistent approach to homelessness across the age spectrum.
There’s a lot of amazing work that our community is already doing to prevent and address youth homelessness and ensure the right supports are provided to youth when they need them:
- Okanagan Boys and Girls Club: Youth Emergency Shelter, Penny Lane, Gateway Suite, Youth Drop-in, Reconnect
- Canadian Mental Health Association: Foundry, Scattered Site Housing
- The Bridge Youth & Family Services: Host Homes, PATH Program, Youth Wellness Centre, YD33
- ARC Programs: Drug and Alcohol Counselling, administer Youth Agreements
Tackling such a complex issue is a collaborative, community effort and any and all help is appreciated.
Journey Home Pledge
All of the community input has been brought together to form the Journey Home Strategy. In addition to showing that the community is poised and ready to move forward with the Strategy, the signed pledges serve as a visual reminder that addressing homelessness effectively takes the whole community.
To learn more, review the Journey Home pledge frequently asked questions.
If you would like to support Journey Home but aren't sure where to start, we welcome you to reach out initially by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.