For the Record – Kelowna’s homelessness battle

Matthew Abrey – May 9, 2019

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has been leading the charge against homelessness in the city.

(Colin Basran)

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says the recent strategies his city has been using to fight homelessness would most likely work in larger cities as well.

The city’s new homelessness transition project, dubbed ‘Journey Home’ is Kelowna’s 5-year strategy to ensure a coordinated and easy-to-access system of care for those in Kelowna who have lost, or are at risk of losing their home.

“I actually do think that there is potential for perhaps larger, metro municipalities in our country to perhaps look at it and follow suit,” says Basran.

The strategy proposes a list of 35 specific actions to be implemented over the five-year span, including the addition of 300 long-term supportive housing units. The new units will be made available primarily to support people experiencing chronic and episodic homelessness with more complex needs. According to a Kelowna-based report from PIT Count, which accumulated data from local shelters, homelessness in the city had increased 20% between 2016 and 2018, which is a trend Basran and his council are trying to curb.

We caught up with Mayor Basran to talk about what the City of Kelowna is doing to combat homelessness.

Basran says city council also realizes that they are not the only ones who need to step up when it comes to dealing with homelessness in the province.

“Certainly from a Kelowna perspective, we don’t see this as a Kelowna-only problem, and nor do we see Kelowna as being the one who’s going to solve this for what’s happening regionally,” says Basran.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from our residents that homelessness is the top issue, because it has resulted in a number of things that are impacting our community and our residents.”

Basran also adds that although the new initiative is getting plenty of support and praise, the public is still not always totally on-board every step of the way.

“Generally there is a huge buy-in and support of the Journey Home, and everybody generally supports the notion of supportive housing,” says Basran.

“When they don’t, it’s when there’s the possibility that supportive housing may be located in their neighbourhood, so that’s where we’ve run into a little bit of pushback.”

The City of Kelowna saw a 20% increase in homelessness between 2016 and 2018. Something the city is looking to drastically curb.

(Pixabay)

In addition to allocating part of the city’s budget towards the initiative and receiving support from both the provincial and federal governments, Journey Home hopes to raise an additional $2.7 million over the next five years. As of March, 2019, the initiative had already surpassed the $1 million mark.