Homelessness pilot project to help Kelowna’s most vulnerable

Housing First is a program that is working in some cities and is coming to Kelowna to try and help homeless situation

The Canadian Mental Health Association is launching a pilot project in Kelowna as part of a strategy to deal with the city’s homelessness issue.

Called Housing First, the project is focused on housing the most vulnerable of Kelowna’s homeless first and providing them with the appropriate support to get off the street.

“We want to build on recent momentum created from discussions co-hosted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Development Institute for business leaders, developers and decision makers where we learned about the connection between the lack of affordable rental housing and homelessness and were introduced to the Housing First model,” said Shelagh Turner, Executive Director of CMHA Kelowna. “The Housing First model is a proven, evidence-based strategy. Having the community on the same page of understanding is a key piece in addressing homelessness.”

The issue of homelessness in Kelowna has come to the forefront of discussion recently with a federally-funded Point-in-Time (PiT) count that put the number of homeless living in Kelowna at at a minimum of 233 people and also surveyed the homeless. Of those living without a home, affordability of housing was listed as the No. 1 area of concern. The other most commonly cited reasons for housing vulnerability include mental health issues, problematic substance use, physical health issues and disabilities, trauma, and family conflict.

“There are communities across North America that have implemented strategies that have effectively reduced, or even ended homelessness,” stated the CMHA in a press release. “One of these strategies is Housing First, which is focused on housing the most vulnerable and providing them with appropriate supports. It’s intense and gritty work but the evidence indicates that it works.”

CMHA Kelowna says there is a lot of conflicting information about Housing First and so the group is hosting a free event open to the public, on June 3rd from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre. It will feature renowned guest speaker and Housing First pioneer Dr. Sam Tsemberis of Pathways to Housing in New York City.

CMHA says the workshop will help the community to understand what Housing First is, how it will work locally, and how this approach is part of the solution to end homelessness.

Anyone interested in learning more about this project is welcome to attend, including landlords and property managers. As space is limited, CMHA Kelowna is requesting that individuals register in advance online at www.cmhakelowna.org

The CMHA Kelowna Branch is a charity that promotes the mental health of all through community-based programs and services, public education, advocacy and research.  It is part of a network of more than 10,000 CMHA volunteers and staff in over 135 communities across Canada.