How do you ensure a strategy to address homelessness is going to be effective? You include people who have lived or living experience to guide the process.
This is what sets the Journey Home Strategy apart from other strategies to address homelessness, from the beginning, input and guidance was sought from community members with lived or living experience with homelessness.
The Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH) is a group of individuals who have lived or are living the experience of homelessness in Kelowna and is the result of a series of comprehensive conversations with over 200 individuals with lived and living experience of homelessness in our community.
“These conversations were essential in the creation of the Journey Home Strategy,” said Dr. Kyleen Myrah, co-chair of the Journey Home Transition Team. “Through these robust discussions, it became evident that weaving the lived and living experience expertise throughout the development and implementation of the Strategy, including the need to have an ongoing working group, was critical to success.”
LECoH is currently made up of ten individuals that meet every two weeks, working alongside Journey Home Transition Team. In order to continue to provide guidance in the implementation of the Strategy, the Circle will have a seat on the newly formed Central Okanagan Journey Home Society Board of Directors.
“I have a lot of experience being homeless and I care about people who are living on the street,” said one LECoH member. “I’m trying to make it a little easier for people to get housing.”
One of the goals of LECoH is to find creative and meaningful ways to inform the greater community about the experience of homelessness in order to reduce stigma. The recent Ending Us and Them event on Nov. 22 at the Kelowna Community Theatre was just one example of how this work can be done. With a sold out crowd, members of the community came together for an artisan market, film screening and panel discussion to dispel myths about homelessness and highlight the root causes of homelessness – including pain, trauma and abuse. Attendees reported that the evening transformed their perspectives and encouraged them to educate themselves further.
“Something I will do differently tomorrow is I will become a catalyst for change, I will have conversations with my friends, family, co-workers, and neighbours encouraging them to challenge their perspectives and the myths about homelessness,” said another LECoH member.
“The Ending Us and Them event was a way to foster a relationship of understanding among people who don’t normally connect,” said Gerard Joyal, LECoH convenor. “For LECoH, it’s about developing a community where no one person or group of people are on the outside looking in. We are all in this together and we are bigger than the problems that perpetuate homelessness and the stigma on those who experience homelessness.”
LECoH will continue to meet regularly and work alongside the new Journey Home Society to empower individuals with lived and living experience to share their wisdom and contribute their expertise to guide how the Journey Home Strategy is implemented. This will ensure that the Strategy remains relevant and responsive. An example of LECoH’s current work is to guide the development of a peer support program designed with the goal of having a person with lived experience of homelessness available to mentor individuals in their navigation of the homeless serving system.
For more information about Journey Home and how the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness is involved, please visit kelowna.ca/journeyhome
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