Former Kelowna mayor frustrated past work on homelessness not continued

Sharon Shepherd says city made great strides in mid-2000s but the work was not advanced.

A former Kelowna mayor says time should not be wasted “reinventing the wheel” when it comes to dealing with the issue of homelessness in the city.

Sharon Shepherd, who served as Kelowna’s mayor from 2005 to 2011 after a nine-year stint as a city councillor, has written to the executive director of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce after the chamber co-sponsored a symposium on homelessness earlier this week that featured a call for a Housing First strategy here to help alleviate the problem in the city.

Housing First focuses on getting the homeless into long-term affordable housing before dealing with other issues they may be facing because it has been shown having their own home helps those in need successfully tackle other issues they are facing, including addiction and poverty.

In her letter, Shepherd reminds Grover—who was not here at the time—that the city had a number of programs aimed at helping the homeless in place during her time in office, used a Housing First approach at that time and was successful in getting funding from higher levels of government for four different types of social housing, including Cardington Apartment’s on St.Paul Street downtown, Willowbridge which is operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association, the New Opportunities for Women Canada (NOW) apartment building in South Pandosy and Rutland’s New Gate Apartments run by the John Howard Society.

Also, at that time, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society operated temporary apartments at the former LaMission Motel.

Operating under a four-pillar approach in 2005 that included enforcement, treatment, prevention and crime reduction strategies, housing for the homeless was one of 28 goals that were identified. So too was a regional coordinator to address the issue of substance abuse but that position has since been eliminated.

“So what has happened?” writes Shepherd. “ A 4 pillar strategy is no longer in place. The coordinator position is no longer in place. Community court led by Judge Anne Wallace, who recently passed away, and was supported by the RCMP, health and social service representatives is no longer in place. Homelessness Awareness Week is no longer in place. A community and provincial priority to deal with homelessness is no longer in place.”

The city has said it plans to hire a social issues coordinator.

Homelessness is not unique or new to Kelowna, said the former mayor.

“As a city and region we must recognize that when the homelessness issues improve, as they did a number of years ago, the work should not have stopped. It is time to review those strategies and rehire a (substance abuse reduction) coordinator. It is time to once again have community action and ongoing government commitment that did make a difference. The homelessness strategy that was in place should never have ended. “

Grover, said she was happy to learn about what had been done in the past and said the chamber is looking at what was done.

But she added a Housing First approach does not have to mean building new apartment buildings. She said existing rental suites could be used but they have to be affordable. Because of that, it will take provincial and federal assistance, likely in the form of rent subsidies, to make such a plan work.

Grover is hopeful money can be secured through the social spending component of the new federal government’s new infrastructure funding plan.

Meanwhile, Shepherd, whose two councils were considered much more socially active than any before them, said she hopes the work done in the past here will not be forgotten, as it was not only valuable but also, effective.

“Please pull out the documents that were used, dust them off, and move forward,” she said in an accompanying email to her letter.

She said she is sad to see the organizations that have continued to participate in dealing with homelessness with minimal support of government and businesses have not been acknowledged and the work started 11 years ago not continued.

“There needed to be a continuation of long-term housing units built so that space would be available for the acute needs of individuals on the street in our community,” said Shepherd.

“There needed to be more treatment facilities made available —such as detox—mental health priorities and more professionals assigned to give the one-on-one (attention that is) so needed.”

 

Just Posted

Pumps run dry across the Central Okanagan

Kelowna, Peachland and West Kelowna all reporting gas shortages

UPDATE: Suspect sought in car theft

Stolen vehicle flees scene in Ashton Creek, found behind Polson Park in Vernon

West Kelowna teen remembered with honourary black belt

“To the kids who are struggling, I say reach out and just speak to somebody…”

Falkland artist favours, fights for fish

Lottie Kozak does all kinds of art; one of her favourite subjects, fish, is dwindling

The Westbank First Nation to be a fixture of Westside Daze

This Canada Day long weekend mark your calendars

Updated: Kelowna cops investigate armed robbery at city centre business

Robbery sparks late afternoon manhunt by armed police officers with guns drawn

Tour rookie takes Golf BC Championship

Arizona’s George Cunnigham, 22, finished the Mackenzie Tour event in Kelowna at 20-under-par

Independent schools continue to top Fraser Institute secondary school list

Think tank says its ratings are fair to all schools, public and private

Former Somali child refugee fights to stay in Canada

Former child refugee Abdoul Abdi’s judicial review set for today in Halifax

U.S. border separations ripple through midterm campaigns

Several Republicans to break from President Donald Trump amid boarder separation issues

AFN chief accused of being too close to Trudeau

Perry Bellegarde insists he is not that close to the Liberals as elections looms

Three injured after industrial explosion in Newfoundland

The roof of the warehouse was blown off in the explosion near St. John’s

Ottawa Senators trade Mike Hoffman, less than a week after allegations involving partner

Following the trade Senators make no mention of allegations against Hoffman’s partner

Most Read