Kelowna city council on Monday (Sept. 28) heard of the ongoing work to develop a plan for emergency shelters in the community.
The Journey Home Society’s 2019 Emergency Shelter Design Lab laid the foundation for the consultation work that will help build what the city calls an “over-arching, community-driven vision for the future of emergency shelters in our community.”
The city consulted several stakeholders and people with lived experience being homeless during the lab, whose feedback will be used to outline the city’s approach to emergency shelters moving forward.
“The outcomes of these discussions were instrumental in setting the context for the community discussion on the optimal way to deliver shelter services in our community,” said Sue Wheeler, the city’s social development manager.
Those learnings, combined with work underway to develop both a shelter location criteria framework and an advocacy paper focused on addressing the needs of individuals with complex health needs, will contribute to the broader conversation related to the possibility of building an overarching community emergency shelters plan.
Stephanie Ball, the executive director of the Journey Home Society, said they continue to advocate for supportive housing but they also realize several individuals with “complex needs” may not be well enough to make that move.
“People who may have severe mental health issues, brain injuries, substance dependence or other issues that require more intense support,” explained Ball.
Such individuals are often the most visible of vulnerable populations, Ball said, and they have historically fallen through the cracks in the system.
“That needs to change — for individuals at risk of experiencing homelessness and for those who are already within the system.”
The Journey Home Society plans to lead the next step of engagement, continuing to communicate with local shelter, housing, and outreach services operators, Interior Health, and BC Housing.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the shelter system is not a barrier or pathway into chronic homelessness but instead, part of a continuum of care and gateway to supports and recovery,” said Ball.
“A resilient, effective and adaptable emergency shelter system within the homeless serving system continuum of care is vital to ensuring that the experience of homelessness is rare, brief when it does occur, and does not reoccur.”
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