Forum focuses on lack of West Kelowna, Peachland social resources

The Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society led a forum regarding the need to improve services for women and families last Friday.

A group discusses West Kelowna's need to improve social services for women and families at a community forum last Friday. The community planning event

About 40 people, including representatives of social agencies, RCMP members and local politicians, gathered at Westbank Lions Community Centre last Friday to discuss West Kelowna’s need to improve services for women and families.

Recently the Central Okanagan Elizabeth Fry Society, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter and the Kelowna Family Centre partnered to develop a survey, which asked clients and the general community if—and more specifically, where—they experience gaps in West Kelowna’s community resources.

One hundred and sixty-four surveys were filled out; 100 per cent of respondents indicated they would like to see more resources on the Westside.

“Services in the West Kelowna area are long overdue,” commented one individual who filled out the survey.

The survey indicated counselling, support groups, a women’s resource centre and an emergency shelter were the top requested services to be brought to the Westside.

Transportation and distance were identified as the biggest challenges associated with accessing Kelowna services.

Participants of last Friday’s forum spent a portion of the afternoon brainstorming what supports are currently in place for West Kelowna and Peachland women and families, what’s missing, and how that gap can be filled.

Micki Smith, project coordinator, thought the forum went well.

“I am pleased with the turnout and enthusiasm of participants sharing their thoughts, suggestions and ideas,” said Smith.

“I am thinking that the next step will be to compile the information gathered and develop a final draft of the report and for the Elizabeth Fry Society, the Kelowna Women’s Shelter and the Kelowna Family Centre to utilize the information and contacts to develop their strategic plan to move forward.”

West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said he liked a few of the ideas that came out of the forum, including the concept of having several services available under one roof.

He advised Smith to present the report, once complete, to council and other community groups that may be able to provide assistance.

“Most of what we heard is not a direct municipal responsibility, but we may have a role in facilitating it,” said Findlater.