The co-chairwoman of Kelowna’ Journey Home Society, the group implementing the city strategy to address homelessness, says the departure of executive director Gaelene Askland was not sudden nor unexpected.
Kyleen Myrah said the society informed its partners of the upcoming move a few weeks ago.
Askland will leave the position Aug. 23 after six months on the job.
Myrah said it was known when Askland was hired earlier this year that the time would come when a different approach from the one Askland brought to the society would be needed.
Myrah said she just did not know when that would be.
But, she added, the skills Askland brought to the job, laid the foundations for the society to move to that crucial next phase.
“We now need a different kind of leadership,” said Myrah, adding Askland’s departure was a “mutual decision.”
She said Askland’s departure was not a result of controversy in the community that has sprung up concerning a number of supportive housing projects, most of which allow drug use on-site.
She noted Askland was executive director of the John Howard Society before moving to Journey Home, and as such headed an organization that operates some of the city’s existing supportive housing projects.
She also helped shepherd the controversial Agassiz Road supportive housing project through a city rezoning.
That project had area residents, particularly seniors, protest the planned development, fearing their neighbourhood would become unsafe and their property values would drop.
Myrah said Askland was not unfamiliar in dealing with controversy.
Askland’s replacement is expected to be in place by the fall and will be someone with a different skill set, said Myrah, someone one is adept at raising investment and someone who will be more of a “public face” for the society.
She added that that person does not necessarily have to be from the non-profit housing sector, or even local.
But she said Askland’s experience in that sector locally was invaluable for Journey Home as it got off the ground.
The Journey Home Society, as it moves to the next phase of its work to implement the strategy over the remaining four years of its five-years mandate, will have to do a better job educating the public about the need and benefit of housing the homeless in future, said Myrah.
The Journey Home co-chair said she believes there is misinformation circulating in the community about housing the homeless.
In some cases, she states correct information is being “blocked” by those who do not want it to get out because it does not fit with their view of what is currently happening.
“We need to do a better job educating people,” Myrah said.
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