Okanagan school board solidifies stance on housing-first initiatives, stresses student safety

Okanagan school board solidifies stance on housing-first initiatives, stresses student safety

The Central Okanagan Public School Board supporting evidence-based strategies for homelessness

The Central Okanagan Public School Board has made its stance clear on supportive housing projects in Rutland.

In a Sept. 26 news release, the board announced that it “supports evidence-based approaches to the homeless crisis.” The release goes on to say that housing-first practices consistently demonstrate “decreases in crime as well as significant savings for taxpayers.”

“We believe that every citizen in the community deserves the opportunity to improve their lives,” said Moyra Baxter, chairperson of the Board of Education.

“However, we focus on the safety of the students in our care and we expect assurance from the city, the province, and the RCMP that student safety will also be a top priority for any development near schools.”

In July, the City of Kelowna changed the model of a supportive housing project on McCurdy Road to not allow drug consumption on-site due to a petition which garnered 13,000 signatures.

Several residents were still unhappy after the change, citing the concerns of the safety of students at three nearby schools — Rutland Middle School, Rutland Senior Secondary and Rutland Elementary.

“Students in our schools learn to be critical thinkers who seek evidence and contributors who are empowered to support their community,” said Baxter.

“Rutland students have a strong track record of directly helping vulnerable people, whether taking action in their own community or offering a hand to people experiencing homelessness downtown.”

The McCurdy project is still under construction in the Rutland area. It is aimed to be completed by spring 2021.

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