City Council endorses Complex Needs Advocacy Paper

July 13, 2021

News Release

City Council endorsed the finalized Complex Needs Advocacy Paper in their July 12 meeting. This document takes a regional, housing-first approach to supporting people experiencing complex needs, and will be used by Central Okanagan municipalities to advocate for provincial funding for infrastructure, resources,  and the creation of a new, integrated model of housing and health care supports.

"This Advocacy Paper marks an important step forward in our work to address homelessness in Kelowna and the broader Central Okanagan region,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “I look forward to working with other municipal leaders and the provincial government as we ensure people with complex needs have access to safe, reliable housing and the supports they need.”

Research has shown there are approximately 520 people experiencing homelessness in the Central Okanagan and nearly half of those individuals experience complex needs. 

“Every person who experiences complex needs is an individual with their own unique history and journey. They often experience a broad range of overlapping impacts to their overall health and wellbeing, including poverty, substance use needs, co-morbid disabilities, acquired brain injuries and Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder,” said Central Okanagan Journey Home Society (COJHS) Executive Director Stephanie Ball. “They are often at risk of experiencing homelessness and frequently rely on emergency services because they’re not able to access appropriate ongoing supports. Current supports are often provided by a multitude of different organizations, in a variety of locations across the community, creating barriers to access for people with complex needs.”

The Advocacy Paper seeks to remove these barriers by recommending a redesign to the system of care. It highlights a regional approach to supporting people with complex needs and Council’s endorsement authorizes Mayor Basran to collaborate with the Mayors of Vernon, West Kelowna, the District of Lake Country, and the Chief of the Okanagan Indian Band to advocate to the provincial government for greater funding, resources and a new, more integrated model of care.

“Resources and funding are critical to appropriately supporting people with complex needs, but it’s the coordinated, system-wide approach to providing supports and services that will have the biggest impact on how care is delivered,” Ball added. “This model must fully integrate health and housing supports and be supported through the work of BC Housing, Interior Health, regional service providers, the Province and the Journey Home Society for it to be successful. We all need to continue to work together, as one entity.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic and a challenging housing market in Kelowna have added complexity to the housing landscape and have contributed to the dynamic nature of homelessness over the last year and a half. Shelter operations were squeezed as fewer clients could be housed in a space than previously, and economic conditions and rising housing costs meant more people were at risk of losing access to market housing.

For more information, visit kelowna.ca/complex-needs. The Complex Needs Advocacy Paper and Infographic are available on that page and can provide additional context.