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Successes seen with Kelowna's social development department

The City of Kelowna's new social development department has seen significant success since being created six months ago
The transitional homes project on Crawley Avenue in Kelowna is 100 per cent tenated.

As the city’s Social Development Department manager put it “These numbers are simply heartwarming.”

At council’s Monday (June 24) meeting, Colleen Cornock related several success stories from the city’s tiny home project.

They included two individuals who left Step Place (Crawly Avenue) and are now in market housing, another person who moved into supportive housing, and five people who found full-time jobs. 

Cornock added that 16 people have connected with mental health and substance use supports through Interior Health.

“The stores are encouraging and are aligned with our underlying housing first principle. That people are better able to move forward with their lives if they are housed first.”

The success comes in the first six months of the city creating the Social Development Department, which replaced the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society.

“I was one of those on council who grudgingly approved setting this department up,” Councillor Rick Webber said. “I feel more confident now that there is a detailed plan in place.”

Councillor Luke Stack said the city has worked for years on issues the new department is now handling, and has wanted to see success stories.

“I think today you’ve pulled the curtain back a bit for us to see that there is some success and we are making progress.”

Mayor Tom Dyas singled out the city's tiny homes project. 

“That model was not something that the province was extremely fond of. Now it’s one of their guiding principles…because of the initiative we moved forward.” 

Cornock told council that the 60 units at Step Place are 100 per cent tenanted, and Trailside (60 units at 2470 Highway 97) is just over 50 per cent tenanted.

She said there are agreements for the rest of the units at Trailside. Another 60 units will be located at another location in the city soon.

While impressed with the progress, Coun. Ron Cannan said Kelowna residents are telling him they are losing confidence in council.

He cited a video created by neighbours living near Stephen’s Village, a supportive housing project on Aggasiz Road.

“They’re tired of regular public drug use, parties, noise, and open drug dealing. Some involved are residents of Stephen’s Village.

Cannan said the operator has been contacted and that the situation sometimes improves but for a short while.

He encouraged staff to work with social agency providers and good neighbour agreements to ensure issues are followed up.

“Right now they have more holes than Swiss cheese, they’re not being held accountable. If we want to gain public confidence I think that’s where we need to take action to start with.” 

Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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