Premier sensitive to Kelowna homeless issue

Leon Avenue hangout for homeless people an issue that falls within her Westside-Kelowna riding and she hears about from her constituents.

Premier Christy Clark is well aware of the concern about homeless people congregating on Leon Avenue in downtown Kelowna.

Since the street falls within her Westside-Kelowna MLA riding, Clark said she gets lots of feedback from her constituents about the situation on Leon.

“I think generally there is a range of concerns expressed. There is the safety of their community issue which is a legitimate concern on one side, while at the same time others have real compassion for the health of those individuals who find themselves homeless and facing mental health or addiction issues,” Clark said.

In an interview with the Kelowna Capital News last week, Clark said her government’s model for the last decade has been to provide housing for the homeless.

“Whatever illness an individual is dealing with, you can’t get better if you don’t have a roof over your head,” Clark said.

“That has been our approach for a long time and we know it works.”

Clark’s comments come on the heels of a forum attended by invited local business leaders and social service agency representatives last month to discuss the homeless people problem on Leon.

The forum keynote guest speakers reiterated what Clark is saying, that finding a home for the homeless should be the first priority for homeless people before starting to deal with addiction or mental health issues.

The forum organizers felt those in attendance were widely receptive to getting something done to address Kelowna’s homeless problem, the common sentiment expressed that can’t continually be ignored.

Clark offered some statistics about her government’s commitment to social services: That $355 million has been allotted over the next five years to pay for social housing projects across the province, and that 3,000 people are supported through housing programs in Kelowna.

Clark said helping Interior communities meet housing needs for both homeless and those on limited or low incomes remains an ongoing challenge her government wants to help address.

“We’re happy to 
do it, and it’s something we’ve been doing for a long time for communities that need it,” she said.