Addressing homelessness

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The City of Kelowna and community partners are creating a long-term strategy, called ‘Journey Home.’ The strategy will bring together services to address housing and homelessness. The vision is to have a clear place to go for support if someone has lost or is about to lose their home. The “no wrong door” approach means any agency can connect an individual with the services they need.

The City has launched a Get Involved page to allow residents to ask questions about Journey Home.

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Strategy & next steps

The strategy will be an action plan that focuses on:

  • Ensuring a safe and healthy community for all citizens;
  • Addressing homelessness; and when it occurs, ensuring it is rare, short-lived and non-reoccurring;
  • Developing appropriate housing;
  • Promoting collaboration and coordination of services and resources to support those who are vulnerable;
  • Developing multi-sector partnerships so that public investment can be targeted towards the goal of reducing homelessness.
Lived Experience Circle

A process is underway to form a Lived Experience Circle.  Successful approaches are demonstrating that having an advisory group of people with lived experience can be critical to forming recommendations and offering solutions related to homelessness. Significant expertise is held by people who are intimately familiar with the issues and hold valuable perspectives about how to tackle them.

The Lived Experience Circle will  help inform and guide the work of the Journey Home Task Force and play a key role in the design of community education and engagement processes. The members will come together regularly  and will be asked to provide insight on the strengths, gaps and barriers in the current homeless-serving system.

Currently a process is underway to engage a team of professionals who work directly with individuals who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness to review best practice approaches and assist in the design of Lived Experience Circle structure and recruitment process.

Task Force

The Journey Home Task Force is a committee appointed by City Council to support the development of the long-term strategy.

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: Strategy to address youth homelessness

A Way Home Kelowna (AWH-Kelowna), the strategy to address youth homelessness, will be led by a steering committee that includes Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), The Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs, The Bridge Youth and Family Services, and the City of Kelowna, and other core partners.  In addition, CMHA will be taking the lead in implementing the direction of the Steering Committee. 

The strategy will be integrated and embedded into Journey Home, ensuring that the needs of youth people are prioritized and that the unique responses required to address the 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.
Current community initiatives

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

Transitional storage program at the Gospel Mission

A transitional storage program in partnership with the City of Kelowna, BC Housing and Gospel Mission.

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

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)

Police and Crisis Team

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

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.

Visit seekelowna.com.

Canadian Mental Health Association

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.

Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society

The Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society offers more than 30 culturally appropriate programs that support the community from preventing homelessness through to assisting people into housing.

The organization has services and programs for all ages as well as operates housing projects.

Bylaw Enforcement and RCMP partnership

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.

City housing actions

The City encourages a variety of housing opportunities across Kelowna 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 the next two years, 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 $300,000 in annual grants are provided to developers of purpose-built rental housing and land acquisition for affordable 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, 1,048 units of purpose-built rental housing were completed or underway  and a similar number are in development for 2017.
  • 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.

For more information about Housing in Kelowna , also visit Housing Strategy .