The City of Kelowna’s plan to help the homeless will be a combined strategy that brings together current service providers under an integrated plan that will share information and policies.
Speaking to members of several local service agencies, including Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, the city’s social development manager Sue Wheeler put forth a 16-month plan that has set a course to change the way the homeless are dealt with in Kelowna.
“We’re stepping back and looking at the whole system and how it functions together to create a coordinated and integrated approach through multi-sector commitments and partnerships to address the needs of people who are experiencing housing issues,” said Wheeler.
In developing the plan Wheeler met with those who have been on the streets working for the homeless as well as those that have been homeless, gathering information. That allowed her to determine key local gaps and the challenges, she said.
She identified Kelowna’s strengths in dealing with certain parts of the homeless situation, but said having every service provider working together with a combined strategy has been proven to work in other cities also dealing with the issue.
“You take the common goals and what we learn in the research and start to determine where the gaps are and where the best opportunity is to really target and change the functionality of the system,” she said.
She pointed to integrated plans that have had success elsewhere that could be adopted in Kelowna, including:
- The development of a local systems map for people who transition through different services to help navigate the system, featuring coordination across all sectors.
- Having a discharge committee to ensure people aren’t discharged from one service out into the community, only to fall back into homelessness.
“Kelowna benefits from a multitude of strengths,” she said. “There’s lots of examples of co-ordination and groups working together and there is a growing willingness to work together in a new and collaborative way.”
Wheeler added that the plan is based on what has worked in other cities and provinces. In Alberta, she said there are seven cities working together and sharing data. In Calgary, 35 service-providers work together and have formed a housing foundation that controls over 2,000 supported beds.
In introducing the presentation Mayor Colin Basran said it was important to have the presentation in a meeting where members of the public could hear what the plans are moving forward.
“We wanted to let the community know there is a lot more going on than meets the eye and that council is committed to dealing with this,” he said, while not directly addressing criticism the city faced with its sidewalk bylaw.
Wheeler’s report did single-out Kelowna’s bylaw officers, but for the good work they are doing. She said many times they have connected a homeless person with a service provider when otherwise they were not getting help.
It’s not the first time Kelowna has had a plan to deal with the homeless, which last year’s official Point In Time Count, numbered at least 233 homeless on any given night. In 2009 the council of the day approved a homeless plan that also looked at the current trends in dealing with the situation.
“There was a plan developed by a collaboration of community partners,” said Wheeler. “I’m not sure why it didn’t progress. In my experience sometimes plans don’t progress if they don’t have clear governance structures that are accountable and partnership commitments.”
Wheeler was questioned by council on the timing of the framework of the plan taking 16 months and pointed to several initiatives already underway. But she said it’s important that the complex plan is well-researched.
“It will take approximately 16 months in total but the engagement process is as important as the outcome because of the structures as to how the complex system will work together will be evolving,” she said.