Kelowna trying to wipe out homelessness in five years

The city of Kelowna is looking to eliminate homelessness over the next five years.

That was the timeline outlined by Dr. Alina Turner at council on Monday, as her consulting team continues to work with a task force of local volunteers.

Turner was asked whether Kelowna's influx would be even higher if such a system is developed locally, and whether it would take on the adage of 'if you build it, they will come.'

"From looking at Alberta, where we have built it - they're coming to (Kelowna)," she said.

"Intuitively, the answer would be of course, you've got better services, the people are going to come anyways. (But) we haven't seen that in the communities in Alberta."

Turner Strategies also consulted with the city of Medicine Hat, which is working at a level of "functional zero" - where there's enough turnover within the different social programs to accomodate incoming homeless people.

Turner referenced that city when asked how feasible it was to reach the same level in Kelowna.

"Even in a community that has found the stability within the supply/demand of their interventions, and the demand coming in, they're still everyday working to maintain that. The work doesn't stop at all," she said.

"I don't think you're going to come to a place where you're going to say 'Ah, we've ended homelessness, and now we can all go home.' That's not going to happen. You always have to have this infrastructure in place, because you're reacting to macroeconomic forces that are beyond Kelowna's control."

Mayor Colin Basran says having Turner on board is invaluable.

"Council has been wholeheartedly and unanimously supportive of the Journey Home, and I can certainly say given your presentation, if we had any doubts, I would say you have obliterated them completely," he said.

"This has been great, and your knowledge of this topic is incredible. So we're feeling very fortunate to have you here and a part of this."

That five year timeline will be put into a report, the first draft of which is planned for April.

A final draft is set to be presented to council at the end of June.

Engagement with the public is also being planned for next month.

Also Monday, the Journey Home Task Force expanded by two members, from 21 to 23.

The new appointees were Westbank First Nation's Diane Roy and Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society's Tina Larouche.

The committee says they'll bring perspective and skills from the local indigenous communities, as one in four people experiencing homelessness are Aboriginal.