A new approach to shelters founded on choice, community, safety, healing

March 1, 2021

A workshop today gave City Council the opportunity to look at the Community Shelter Plan, which is currently in development, and provide feedback and direction on the plan. Council heard about the crucial role shelters play in addressing homelessness.

The Community Shelter Plan will provide a system-wide approach for the delivery of shelter services, which is founded on the four core principles of choice, healing, community and safety. The Shelter Location Considerations are an important part of the broader plan as they will help navigate the nuanced considerations involved in selecting shelter sites. These considerations are necessary for successful community integration and flow from a recognition that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this process.

“The concept of the Community Shelter Plan emerged from a community consultation process on the future of sheltering services in our community. The stakeholders involved in that process saw the value in such a plan, incorporating the views and wisdom of people who have experienced and are experiencing homelessness into a new and innovative vision for shelter services.” said Sue Wheeler, Social Development Manager, City of Kelowna. “Having a clearly articulated plan will put Kelowna in a position to advocate for senior government investment in future shelter services that aligns with our community’s vision.”  

A key benefit of the Community Shelter Plan is the level of coordination it will bring to the provision of shelters in Kelowna. Shelters are proposed to become more navigation-focused sites, where a variety of health and wellness services will be accessible. The approach calls for smaller, dispersed shelters designed to accommodate a greater range of choice and need. The plan envisions shelters that are oriented to the needs of the people they serve, and where equity and inclusion guide their operation, their physical design and staff training.

“I’m really excited about this plan,” said Stephanie Ball, Executive Director of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society. “It will be an important step forward for the organizations in Kelowna that are working to address homelessness. We’ve come a long way to better integrate all the different agencies involved in recent years and this plan will cement the progress that we’ve made to date.”

The Shelter Location Considerations, the portion of the plan guiding the selection of shelter sites, will use non-prescriptive location considerations. Social equity and inclusion barriers that prevent certain populations from accessing shelter services will be addressed as a result, and the diverse needs and characteristics of the many different people accessing these services will be appropriately considered. Every shelter and every site will be unique, as is every Kelowna neighbourhood. 

Stakeholders highlighted the importance of addressing community needs, concerns, and neighbourhood impact through a transformation in how shelter services are delivered in our community. The plan describes a process for site selection focused on choosing shelter locations that ensure they are successfully integrated into the surrounding community. The result being that shelter residents are supported as they navigate a critical time in their lives. The site selection process will incorporate input from neighbours, community partners, Indigenous communities, people with lived experience, businesses, and others.

Today City Council contributed feedback and input to the development of a Community Shelter Plan. The plan will now be developed and presented to community stakeholders for their feedback, after which the final plan will be presented to Council for consideration later this year.