Kelowna City Hall is embarking on a “made-in-Kelowna” solution to homelessness. —Image Credit: Carli Berry/Capital News

Another step forward for Kelowna homelessness strategy

City embarks on a strategy to deal with homelessness it says will take a year to develop.

The City of Kelowna is moving ahead with its strategy to deal with homelessness.

On Monday, council approved the terms of reference for a group dubbed the Journey Home Task Force.

The task force, to be co-chaired by Okanagan College business professor Kyleen Myrah and Urban Systems CEO Martin Bell, will develop a long-term strategy to address homelessness in the city. Kelowna’s social issues manager Sue Wheeler said the new strategy will be in place by next spring.

Approved in principal by city council earlier this year, the task force will be made up of stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds and use a Housing First model as its basis. Housing First says getting a person into a home of their own is the most important step society can make if it wants that person to succeed.

“When a person has a roof over their head, it changes everything for them,” Wheeler told council.

She said there will be “a place for every voice” on the task force and its success will require people to change their way of thinking.

The terms of reference were drawn up based on best-practices collected from other areas in North America that have had success addressing homelessness.

The strategy to be be created is expected to include collaboration and co-ordination of the many individual groups that already deal with helping the homeless in the city.

City hall has said it wants to create a “made-in-Kelowna” solution to the problem because while there are many common factors in communities across the country when it comes to the issue of homelessness, there are also some that are unique to this city.

Councillors praised the move to have the city act in a leadership role on the issue and Mayor Colin Basran called dealing with homelessness “vital to our community.”

“This is a large community initiative and we have to get this right,” he told council.

The next step will be to select the 11 to 15 members of the task force and have it set about its work developing the strategy.

The strategy will be presented to council early next year for approval, said Wheeler.

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