Survival of the Richest, Chapter Five
Kelowna isn't an affordable place to live and too many are sleeping in alleyways. But what's being done about it?
The city's homeless strategy with Journey Home implemented in 2018 is working on three main things - ending chronic and episodic homelessness, introducing measures to prevent homelessness in the first place, and implementing a coordinated systems approach to homelessness.
Executive Director with Metro Community Amber Webster-Kotak says before Journey Home organizations were working in competition rather than collaboration. "When I first entered this sector as a volunteer, I think what really surprised me was the number of different organizations that were doing a variety of different things and sort of a lack of connectedness. Since Journey Home began, I think what's happened is we have a real pulling together in our community to work on behalf of the community as a whole."
City Councillor Loyal Wooldridge says Journey Home is more than just getting people off the streets. "It underwent about a year and a half, 18 months, of study to understand what causes chronic and episodic homelessness and then how do we overcome that with a lived experience voice. Of course the first step was building supportive housing, but paying attention to the housing continuum."
There's more to the problem than just getting people off the street. Preventative measures to homelessness are just as vital.
BC Housing has several different programs to make it easier to keep a roof over your head.
Nanette Drobot, Regional Director for the Interior, says there are financial aid programs for many walks of life. "One is called SAFER, that stands for Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters. There's also a program called RAP and that's the rental assistance program, this time instead of targetting seniors it's targetting working families. Then we have what is called rent supplements and these are targetting people who are homeless or who are at risk."
Drobot also notes they offer incentives for developers to build more affordable housing through the Housing Hub. "It's intention is to provide low interest loans to developers so they can build affordable rental homes and provide home ownership options for middle-income families. In Kelowna, Housing Hub has been quite busy, they've completed 344 homes."
Kelowna isn't affordable and with prices forcast to go up, it doesn't look like it's headed in a more affordable direction.
But in some good news, minimum wage goes up to $15.20 this summer - making it a little easier for some families to make ends meet.