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City of Kelowna to take lead on addressing local homelessness

The city of Kelowna is taking a larger leadership role in addressing complex social issues including homelessness.

This change comes in light of a five-year memorandum of understanding between the city and the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society that is set to expire on Dec. 31.

“We heard through independent review with the local not-for-profit social serving sector for a real desire that the city needs to lean in more,” said City of Kelowna Social Development manager Colleen Cornock. “And the strength to really be a leader in this industry and has the strength to build on our existing partnerships and really advance advocacy efforts between levels of government. This is really in response to what we are hearing from community.”

For some area residents, like Cory Anthony, a different approach in addressing homelessness couldn’t have come soon enough.

On Wednesday Anthony drove along Kelowna’s Rail Trail witnessing firsthand just how large the encampment has become. He believes homelessness has only gotten worse over the last few years and is calling for immediate action from all levels of government.

“We are a first world country; I am in shock. When you drive down here and see people living like this… we are a first world country we’re human beings we’re not animals,” said Anthony. “There’s so many resources out there, I know they are out there and are adaptable to the people out here but what chances do they have. Right now, it’s a bandage, we need solutions and that’s the problem. For every solution find, they find another problem.”

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According to the city, since the homeless response strategies were introduced in 2018, more than 300 homes with supports were built, local systems to coordinate social-serving sector response were developed, and better data about who is experiencing homelessness in our community has been obtained.

“Our next step really is about building out. Social Development, the department here at the city, has increased funding for resourcing. So, first steps is really building that team out, increased collaboration between partners,” said Cornock. “I think that it is important to address that homelessness is one of the areas of focus, but it is not the only focus. In 2024 we will see some focus in some upstream prevention into the stream into homelessness. A lot of other key focus areas in terms of planning and social response.”

The city of Kelowna says they are already working with the province and other partners to increase supportive housing in the community.

As well, the City is in the process of identifying a possible future third site that could accommodate another potential 60 units.

“One that is already underway is our partnership with the province, the Ministry of Housing and BC Housing to bring 120 new temporary transitional units to Kelowna in two different locations with 60 units,” said  Cornock. “BC Housing has identified the operators for both those, they haven’t announced that as of yet. BC Housing will manage that and make that announcement in the next coming weeks.”

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