Kelowna city councillor-elect Loyal Wooldridge celebrated his 33rd birthday earlier this week. During the orientation session at city hall for the incoming council, his new colleagues, all re-elected incumbents, presented him with a birthday cake. Pictured are (from right to left) Councillors Ryan Donn, Luke Stack, Gail Given, Brad Sieben, Charlie Hodge, Maxine DeHart, Wooldridge, Mohini Singh and Mayor Colin Basran. —Image: contributed

New Kelowna city councillor sees homelessness strategy as top council priority

Councillor-elect Loyal Wooldridge says ongoing implementing of Journey Home strategy is crucial

He may be the “new kid on the block” but Kelowna city councillor-elect Loyal Wooldridge says for him, it’s clear what the top issue facing the incoming council is—the ongoing implementation of the city’s Journey Home strategy to address homelessness.

He said with the expected closing of the Inn From the Cold shelter and the Cornerstone shelter on Leon Avenue downtown in a few years, decisions concerning the strategy will be imperative.

With the planning done and the strategy now being implemented, Wooldridge expects the incoming council will be faced with a number of tough decisions and spending issues to deal with in order to meet the strategy’s goals.

“There will be issues and there will be challenges,” he said, but added he feels Journey Home is a good strategy and will address one of the largest social issues currently affecting not only his city, but communities across the region and the country.

In West Kelowna, another new city councillor also also placed the issue of addressing homelessness at the top of the priority list for his city’s incoming council.

Councillor-elect Jayson Zilkie said Thursday providing a homeless shelter in the community for this winter needs immediate attention. A special council meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 8 to address the issue, just 48 hours after the new mayor and council are to be sworn into office.

Back on the Kelowna side of the lake, Wooldridge said the rest of the country is watching to see the impact of the Journey Home strategy, especially in light of the fact it goes beyond simply housing the homeless.

“The wrap-around support services are crucial,” he said. “Housing First cannot be housing only.”

Wooldridge, who attended more than 20 council meetings in preparation for running in the Oct. 20 civic election and worked his way through a mountain of research on a host of municipal issues, said he’s happy with the previous council’s efforts to secure funding from senior levels of government for support services to augment Journey Home.

But he said the conversation is not one that ended with the introduction of the strategy.

While the homeless issue is a top priority for him, Wooldridge was not a single issue candidate during the election.

He said other priorities for him are development, or rather redevelopment, the Official Community Plan review and the accompanying Transportation Master Plan the city is working on.

Single-family homes may have been considered a “birthright” in Kelowna in the past, said Wooldridge, but the city is changing and so are the ways residents want to live.

“We need more different styles in the (housing) inventory and a paradigm shift in behaviour when it comes to transportation,” he said. “It’s the only way we will stop sprawl.”

The new Kelowna city council, made up of Wooldridge and returning Councillors Maxine DeHart, Gail Given, Luke Stack, Brad Sieben, Charlie Hodge, Mohini Singh, Ryan Donn and returning Mayor Colin Basran, will be sworn into office Monday, Nov. 5, in a ceremony at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

The ceremony, open to the public, will start at 7 p.m and be followed by a brief inaugural meeting and a public reception.

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