City committed to functional zero homelessness

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Kelowna city council signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society (COJHS) on Monday formalizing their partnership and commitment to addressing homelessness.

The MOU is designed to support the implementation of the Journey Home Strategy.

It outlines general roles and expectations of both the city and the society that reflects the need for both partners to work in collaboration to achieve a functional end to homelessness in Kelowna.

When the strategy was endorsed back in 2018, the city committed $150,000 annually for the first three years of the five year strategy.

Social Development Manager Sue Wheeler said funding for the final two years in 2022 and 2023 will be considered on an annual basis.

“What the expectation is, is that journey Home will conduct a full review in this coming year and they'll be coming back to a discussion with the city about that review and the outcomes by early fall. Any recalibration that may be necessary would be considered at that time and out of that will come the conversations around the city's funding ask and that will be a part of the budget process,” said Wheeler.

The city's role will be to advocate to senior levels of government for commitment and investment, while the COJHS will work to reach functional zero homelessness driven by research and evidence, community expertise and people with lived experience.

Wheeler said their ultimate objective is to shift to a focus of prevention overtime.

“With the number of housing units and scattered sites that have come on stream since 2017, we now have 435 units that will be in place by the end of this year. With the 87 that are just coming now, it'll be 435 units that are supporting and housing people with supports.”

Wheeler said Journey Home's process has been to engage the service providers in a conversation where they can enact change.

“So that's a conversation that's just  about to unfold in our community and I think that they're going to be talking to the partners in the community over the next several weeks about that and I believe that we will see an integration of data in the future and we'll have real time data that's available at our fingertips.”

According to Wheeler, last year Journey Home joined a national effort called Built for Zero which captures and compares data on homelessness across Canada.

The MOU is set to run through 2023 and may be extended further following performance reviews in 2021 and 2023.

To gauge effectiveness of the strategy there will be annual progress reports to council and quarterly reports to staff.