Kelowna city council approved the long-awaited Journey Home Strategy addressing homelessness in the city.
The five-year, $46.7 million strategy includes an action plan focused on building a system of care that is projected to support more than 2,100 individuals into housing or support programs by 2024.
“The timing is right to move this strategy into action,” said Martin Bell, co-chair of the 23-member Journey Home Task Force, appointed by council.
The main priorities include 300 new long-term supportive housing units, 500 new support program spaces, the creation of a backbone organization to lead the strategy implementation, and a funding strategy designed to tap into several different financial sources.
The strategy sets its focus on supporting those who have been experiencing homelessness the longest in our community.
It is also unique in that it embeds a youth strategy that will be supported by A Way Home Kelowna, a local branch of A Way Home, the national Coalition to End Youth Homelessness.
Bell and his fellow co-chair, Kyleen Myrah said the strategy is a measurable plan with 38 key actions with set milestone and targets as well as identified key contributors.
“We’ve learned in creating this strategy that it’s as much about bringing the community together as it is creating a guiding document,” said Myrah.
“The response we’ve received from the community has been truly inspiring, from those who work closest to homelessness, to the engagement of those who’ve never really been a part of conversation such as the technology and innovation sector. Most importantly are the voices of those who have, or are currently, experiencing homelessness that resonate throughout the action plan. The expertise they’ve provided has been incredibly valuable and we will continue to seek their guidance as we transition into the next stage.”
The strategy was welcomed by council, who received applause from the gallery when it voted to unanimously approve it.
Mayor Colin Basran called the strategy the most important report his council has received during its current term in office.
Now work will begin to create an independent organization to lead and roll out the strategy. A Journey Home transition team has already been established with almost all of the 23 members of the Journey Home Task Force agreeing to continue on for the next nine months to help oversee the shift to implement the strategy with the backbone organization.
Myrah said $250,000 of the $2.7 million needed for the backbone organization over the next five years has already been raised.
“The backbone organization, the group that will be laser-focused on carrying out this strategy, will have dedicated office space for the first two years with Accelerate Okanagan and we are close to securing all funding required for the first two years of their operation as well,” said Bell.
Both Bell and Myrah said the city alone cannot solely deal with the issue of homelessness in Kelowna. It will take the entire community and the two senior levels of government.
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