A new, publicly available mapping tool, detailing all emergency shelter, assisted-living housing and low-income accommodation in Kelowna has been unveiled.
i-Search Kelowna is an on-line tool its developers from UBC-Okanagan and Okanagan College hope will help inform residents about the availability of social housing in the city.
“This is a made-in-the-Okanagan tool, one that is unique to what’s going here in the Okanagan,” said UBCO geography professor and cartographer Jon Corbett.
Together with Okanagan College business professor Kerry Rempel and a number of students from both institutions,—graduate and post-graduate students—the mapping system has been two years in the making. It is believed to be the first of its kind in the region.
It was developed after conversations in the community involving the Central Okanagan Foundation and the United Way of Central and South Okanagan that made it clear individuals and agencies here weren’t always aware of all the options available in the community when it came to social programs and housing.
Funded by the COF and the United Way, as well as a number of private technology groups, to the tune of $80,000, i-Search provides information about social housing projects and includes information such as location, photographs, availability and location of nearby amenities, as well as proximity to transportation.
Rempel said it will be up to each organization whose developments are included on the map to keep their information up to date. She said one example of how the the mapping program could be used would be to provide real time information about the availability of shelter beds in the city.
“This is a start. This tool is just the beginning,” said Rempel. “We plan to refine it over the next six months.”
She said the measure of success will be if the mapping tool is used and how it is used.
Corbett, a self-described “map geek,” said while the new program allows for many filters to be used so searches can pinpoint information needed, only six are currently open. But he said the program has the capability for as many as 78 filter that could be used for searches.
One of the students involved in the project is former John Howard Society executive director Shelley Cook, now a doctoral student at UBC.
Cook said she saw first hand during her days dealing with social housing at the John Howard Society the need for such a mapping tool in the community and the information it could provide.
The public is encouraged to try out the i-Search Kelowna mapping tool by going to the website isearchkelowna.ca.