Letter: Get the facts on homeless in Kelowna

During the Journey Home process, all task force members agreed the strategy must be evidence based

To the editor:

With election season upon us, the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society knows it is easy to replace facts and evidence with sounds bites and political posturing.

This is especially true as homelessness and downtown safety emerge as core themes in the Kelowna civic elections.

During the Journey Home process, all 23 task force members agreed the strategy must be evidence based, action oriented and achievable within five years. We carefully considered national best practices and were informed by communities, like Medicine Hat, who have ended homelessness.

READ MORE: Long-awaited homelessness strategy presented to Kelowna council

Given the amount of misinformation emerging suggesting the need for more talk on homelessness – we felt it important to offer the facts on what has happened thus far through Journey Home strategy actions:

• BC Housing is developing 88 housing units with on-site 24/7 support workers opening this December 2018. 102 additional units are to be delivered in 2019.

These efforts will house almost three-fourths of those experiencing chronic homelessness noted in the “Point-in-Time” count.

Our goal is to ensure enough housing is built by 2020 so all those experiencing chronic homelessness have access to a home with support.

• The Central Okanagan Journey Home Society is now incorporated and focused on following through on delivering on actions and coordination included in the strategy.

• A lived experience circle of those experiencing homelessness is contributing to the development of impactful solutions, with several initiatives in process.

• Services are now in place reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness and taking pressure off hospital and emergency response services.

• An application to establish a Community Court for individuals with less serious offences who have underlying health and social issues is underway.

• The faith community has mapped the services they provide for those experiencing homelessness to identify opportunities to work in a coordinated way to better meet the needs.

• Housing First training is being delivered for service providers in the region.

Kelowna’s Journey Home was recognized by national experts including Dr. Alina Turner as the largest multi-sector community consultation process on homelessness in Canada.

There were over 2000 points of contact with the community and those experiencing homelessness. The task force, representing multiple sectors, worked hard to ensure every voice was at the table and heard.

For civic election candidates wanting to engage and learn about the complexities of homelessness, we are available to meet you to share our learnings from the Journey Home. One thing we have certainly learned is the time for talk and consultations is over. Our focus now needs to be squarely on actions and in obtaining the resources necessary to make sure Kelowna is successful in following through. We can end homelessness, but it will require collaboration from the entire community with a resolute commitment to act to get there, together. It is important we all continue to work to ensure everyone has a safe and secure place to call home.

Central Okanagan Journey Home Society Directors: Dr. Kyleen Myrah, Scott Lanigan, Shane Worman, Diane Roy & Dave Krysko

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