The issue of homelessness in Kelowna has come to the forefront of discussion and media coverage. On a weekly, if not daily basis, there are articles written and opinions shared about the urgency and visibility of the situation.
Homelessness is just as complex as people are unique; complex issues require complex solutions. Of those living without a home, affordability of housing was listed as the No. 1 area of concern. The other most commonly cited reasons for housing vulnerability include mental health issues, problematic substance use, physical health issues and disabilities, trauma, and family conflict.
There are communities across North America that have implemented strategies that have effectively reduced, or even ended homelessness. One of these strategies is Housing First, which is focused on housing the most vulnerable and providing them with appropriate supports. It’s intense and gritty work but the evidence indicates that it works.
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Kelowna Branch, through funding from the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy and the Interior Health Authority, have launched a Housing First pilot project in our community.
There is a lot of conflicting information about the Housing First model and philosophy. CMHA Kelowna is hosting a free event open to the public, on June 3rd from 8:30am to 11:30am at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre. It will feature renowned guest speaker and Housing First pioneer Dr. Sam Tsemberis of Pathways to Housing in New York City.
This workshop will help our community to understand what Housing First is, how it will work locally, and how this approach is part of the solution to end homelessness.
“We want to build on recent momentum created from discussions co-hosted by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the Urban Development Institute for business leaders, Developers and decision makers where we learned about the connection between the lack of affordable rental housing and homelessness and were introduced to the Housing First model.” says Shelagh Turner, Executive Director of CMHA Kelowna. “The Housing First model is a proven, evidence-based strategy. Having the community on the same page of understanding is a key piece in addressing homelessness.”
Anyone interested in learning more about this project is welcome to attend, including landlords and property managers. As space is limited, CMHA Kelowna is requesting that individuals register in advance online at www.cmhakelowna.org
The CMHA Kelowna Branch is a charity that promotes the mental health of all through community-based programs and services, public education, advocacy and research. It is part of a network of more than 10,000 CMHA volunteers and staff in over 135 communities across Canada. www.cmhakelowna.com
Mike Gawliuk, Director of Service Delivery and Program Innovation, CMHA Kelowna