A $47 million plan to address the homelessness crisis in Kelowna gained the support of city council Monday.
As they endorsed an early draft of the Journey Home strategy , however, councillors also raised questions about its long-term impact, particularly if funding needed from the provincial and federal government doesn’t materialize.
“Twelve years ago there was another push to deal with this issue and it resulted in 160 housing units being created which are all full now, but I look around the streets today and it seems there are more people out (there) than there were 10 years ago,” said Coun. Luke Stack.
“It just leaves me with that uncomfortable feeling in trying to project where we might be five years from now under this strategy.”
Coun. Gail Given also had concerns about creating another not-for-profit social service group that will compete for funding with other private similar organizations, saying the city can push the strategy forward but also has to support other not-for-profit efforts as well.
Mayor Colin Basran said addressing the homelessness issue has been an emotional journey for council, as they have been forced to address a problem for which the responsibility often lies with other levels of government.
“Honestly, we looked at this as, could we do something that would be measurable and manageable?” Basran said “Now we have gotten to this point with this strategy and we begin to see it might be possible. And that is huge.”
The Journey Home Task Force presented the draft framework of Kelowna’s Homelessness Strategy at Monday’s council meeting, the final phase before the report is finalized for adoption in June.
The presentation included an overview of the key components of the five-year strategy including foundational concepts and strategic pillars, actions, a proposed $47 million funding model, and a transition plan. The strategy’s objective is to work toward ensuring homelessness is rare, short-lived and non-reoccurring in our community within six years.
“At the core of this strategy is an achievable plan that is based on data and best practices to support those most vulnerable in our community,” said Kyleen Myrah, Journey Home Task Force co-chair.
“It’s inspiring to see the diversity of people and sectors that have already come together to support this strategy. There are already initiatives underway like the recently approved project on Commerce Avenue with 46 units, which will start housing people with 24/7 supports within the year. It’s important that we continue this momentum.”
The final Journey Home Strategy will be presented as a five-year strategy, with a plan to review progress in year three. The strategy premise is focused on supporting those who are chronically and episodically homelessness in Kelowna calling for 300 new long-term supportive housing units with supports onsite.
New housing support programs are also a priority in the strategy with a further 500 new program spaces needed including assertive community treatment, housing first intensive case management, rapid rehousing and prevention programs.
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