Journey Home Task Force co-chairs Kyleen Myra and Martin Bell make their proposal Monday to members of Kelowna city council. -Image: Alistair Waters

Long-awaited homelessness strategy presented to Kelowna council

The made-in-Kelowna solution calls for an investment of $46.7 million over five years

Kelowna’s long-awaited plan to address the issue of homelessness will be presented to city council Monday afternoon.

The plan, being recommended by the Journey Home Task Force, proposes a $46.7 million effort over five years, with $18 million would go to provide 300 units of long-term housing in buildings with supports on-site for people with complex needs such as addiction, mental health and medical needs.

Another $26 million would be earmarked for 500 new program spaces supporting people in rental housing across the city, including assertive community treatment, intensive care management, rapid rehousing and prevention. The support would be based on the Housing First Model, which advocates getting people into housing before providing supportive programs.

B.C. Housing has currently committed to the development of two buildings with a total of 88 units and is in discussion with the city about 102 additional units in future buildings throughout the city.

The city money would go towards building and additional 110 housing units in three buildings.

The report also calls for $2.7 million for a “neutral backbone” organization with a focus on, and accountability for, the implementation of the Journey Home Strategy. It would look at co-ordinating funding, system planning, capacity building, leadership and accountability and development innovation and partnerships.

Related story: Kelowna interest in solving homelessness highly motivated

The report justifies the $46.7 million cost by saying the price of doing nothing and maintaining the status quo would be $100 million over the next five years when it comes to housing the estimated 2,100 people who will require housing during that time.

To help with the cost of the strategy, the report says there are already funding commitments for a total of $236,000 over the next four years from private funders, the United Way and Urban Systems, as well as two co-working office spaces from Accelerate Okanagan.

The city has so far committed $300,000 over two years, with more to be announced going forward.

The report suggests a transition team made up of Journey Home Task Force members to support the set up of the backbone organization and to secure start-up funds over the next few months.

Then, it says, funds should be raised to hire a CEO, communications staff and “lived experience” co-ordinator, as well as administration costs along with securing office space—preferably through an in-kind donation.

In months five and six of the start up, the report says a board of directors to oversee the implementation of the strategy should be assembled, the CEO and communications staff hired, and partnerships formalized with local groups and other initiatives dealing with homelessness in the city.

The strategy’s implementation should be reviewed after three years.

Related story: Kelowna-made plan to deal with homelessness wins support

Currently, there are an estimated 2,000 people per year in Kelowna who experience homelessness says the report, with 25 to 30 per cent women, another 25 to 30 per cent indigenous individuals and 15 to 20 per cent youth.

Between 140 and 160 people are described as chronically homeless, 190 to 220 episodically homeless, 1,500 to 1,700 traditionally homeless and another 2,800 to 3,000 at a high risk of becoming homeless.

Kelowna city council will consider the Journey Home Strategy at its regular meeting Monday afternoon.

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