Homeless task force reporting high public feedback

The first draft of a plan to end homelessness in Kelowna will be presented to council next month.

At Monday's meeting, the Journey Home Task Force gave an update on its last couple months of public consultation work.

Co-Chair Martin Bell says they learned that homelessness affects more people than you might think.

"Almost a quarter of the people that responded had someone in their immediate family that experienced homelessness, and 15% of them had experienced homelessness themselves," he said.

"It's one of those things that touches many people, I think we talk about things like cancer, and how many of those things touch other people. This one's actually really coming to the front for a lot of people, because it is actually touching a huge cross section of the community."

Those results came from a public survey, that got more than 500 responses in five and a half weeks.

Bell says it's important for the community to realize how nuanced the issue of homelessness is.

"I think as a community, we will do well to realize they're not there for the same reasons, and they're not there for some homogenous reason that applies to all of them," he said.

"Some of them have been orphans, some of them have aged out of care, some of them - there's been family violence, some of them - there have been brain injuries, some of them have been in car accidents, some of them have addiction issues, those are all different root causes. So it's challenging, but it's also challenging to realize how much we treat this as one set of issues, and it's not."

Bell also points out that getting all levels of government on board will be essential, as it will take ongoing work to keep people off the streets.

"Building housing and providing land is one thing, but actually being able to back that up with supports right through the whole homelessness serving sector, we're going to have to amplify that in this community - there's no question that needs to be funded," he said.

"I think we all know in government circles, capital is the thing that gets funded. Not to be trite, but it's the thing where a ribbon gets cut, and where the needle's going to get moved on this is actually developing the funding and the partnerships that are sustainable over the long term. To actually operate, to actually provide those supports."

The Task Force has been working with Dr. Alina Turner, who heads a consulting firm that's worked with cities across the country to make plans to end homelessness.

The task force will present a draft to council on May 7, before coming back for a final time at the end of June.