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Feds cough up some funds for Kelowna's homeless

Kelowna's frontline workers  banded together and managed to get $1.2 million from the federal government to help the area's homeless population get on their feet over the next two years.

"Basically, with this money the focus we have is to engage people who have the most challenges physically and emotionally," said Christene Walsh of the Regional District of Central Okanagan—one of the members of the Kelowna Community Advisory Board on Homelessness that applied for funds from the  federal government's Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

"These are  the people who utilize the highest level of services and can be the hardest to engage— this money is going to be used for the most complex people."

Once those people have been engaged, some of those dollars will  be earmarked for providing housing or the services that will help someone on the brink of homelessness, stay afloat.

Funds will also be used to create a database that will catalogue what services and resources are available, so frontline workers are most effective.

"That will help get information to the people who need it," Walsh said.

Kelowna's homelessness problem has been long lamented, which is why the city's community groups have benefitted from federal funding in various forms for over 12 years.

At last count in 2009—which Walsh thinks could still stand today—there were an estimated 625 homeless residents of Kelowna.

Many of those, however, are considered "hidden homeless" as they're not street people. They're without their own address, couch surfing and piece-mealing together what they need to survive.

Those are the ones that may be tapping into services at the  Gospel Mission, which is one of the beneficiaries of federal funding.

With the recession taking a bite out of the financial stability of many, Randy Benson at the mission has seen significant changes.

"From the shelter point of view, our numbers have remained the same,  which I think that in part is credited to the fact we're able to house more people," he said.

There are several housing projects constructed in recent years have created space for hundreds of people who would otherwise be homeless, he explained.

There are also more   case workers in the city helping those who have fallen through the cracks get on their feet.

"We've been making good strides," he said. "That said, we've seen an increase in number of people needing food. Even though people getting housed, the challenge is to get through the other months, with other things. "

With that in mind, the mission will be using their allocation of funds for outreach work, but each of the seven community partners involved have a different leg of the problem they're working on.

Among those getting funding are the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, Kelowna Gospel Mission, Kelowna Community Resources, Canadian Mental Health Association, John Howard Society of the Central and South Okanagan, Okanagan Boys & Girls Clubs, and  Inn from the Cold .

These community partners are receiving a total of $227,300 (one Aboriginal Homelessness agreement at $49,283 and six Designated Communities agreements at $178,017).

In addition, on June 4, 2012, the Central Okanagan Foundation  received approval to be the Community Entity under the HPS’s new Community Entity Model. Over the next two years, the Central Okanagan Foundation will distribute HPS funding of $981,174 to local organizations for the development of housing and support services. This represents $779,948 in Designated Communities funding and $201,266 in Aboriginal Homelessness funding.

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