11:39 AM

New temporary housing opens for people in Kelowna

KELOWNA - People experiencing homelessness in Kelowna now have access to 60 new indoor spaces with the opening of STEP Place at 759 Crowley Ave.

“We recognize the immediate need to bring unhoused people in Kelowna indoors and provide them the care they need,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “That is why the rapid opening of these units is significant as it means more people now have access to a safe and warm place to stay. Through this housing, people experiencing homelessness can be supported as they stabilize and move forward with their lives.”

These units are part of the Homeless Encampment Action Response Temporary Housing (HEARTH) program, which is one of the initiatives being implemented under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Province and the City of Kelowna. People will begin moving into the units before the end of February 2024. Each unit is outfitted with storage shelving, a bed, dresser, mini-fridge, desk, chair and a heating/cooling unit. The site includes an indoor multi-use common space with a community kitchen.

People moving into STEP Place will be mainly from local shelters and ready to take the next step to more independent housing with embedded supports. This will free up shelter spaces for people living in encampments and others experiencing homelessness in the community.

“Today marks an important milestone for both previously unhoused individuals and for our community,” said Tom Dyas, mayor of Kelowna. “These 60 units, built in just four months, show how governments and organizations can work quickly to address homelessness challenges. We are grateful to the Province for investing in our community.”

STEP Place will be managed by the John Howard Society of Okanagan and Kootenay, an experienced non-profit housing provider. The society will provide services such as daily meals, 24/7 staffing, access to skills training and support navigating the housing system. Individuals moving into these new units will be assessed and matched with appropriate supports. Staff are committed to working respectfully with each person to help them along their own path to housing stability.

“Using a trauma-informed, person-centred approach, STEP Place will provide a high-quality therapeutic program designed to help people achieve their housing, employment and health goals,” said Patricia Bacon, executive director of the John Howard Society of Okanagan and Kootenay. “We are excited to be part of this collaboration for the first HEART and HEARTH project for Kelowna.”

Under the Homeless Encampment Action Response Teams (HEART) program in Kelowna, Interior Health will also deliver a range of health services to individuals in housing and existing shelters through the establishment of a new Integrated Health Outreach Team known as IHOT. The team's services will include episodic primary care, wound care, medication support, clinical referrals and connections to other health-care services, such as substance-use and mental-health treatment. The incorporation of an Indigenous patient navigator will ensure culturally safe care for all clients.

“This outreach team will streamline access to care by connecting with individuals directly in the community, providing them with the services and supports they need, and fostering improved health and well-being for this vulnerable population,” said Susan Brown, Interior Health president and CEO.

STEP is an acronym for Supported Transitional [Housing] with Embedded Programming, to signify a step between shelter and permanent housing. These spaces are temporary units offering a safe, warm, and secure place for people to rest and access the support services they need. BC Housing will continue working with the city to identify areas to build new permanent supportive housing.

Trailside Transitional Housing, a second 60-unit housing project at 2740 Highway 97 N., is expected to be completed in April 2024.

The Province has nearly 78,000 homes that have been delivered or are underway throughout the province, including more than 1,700 homes in Kelowna.

Quick Facts:

  • The Province, through BC Housing, is providing a total of approximately $5.4 million for STEP Place from the HEARTH program and will also provide annual operating funding.
  • The project is on land owned by the City of Kelowna, which will lease the land to the Province for a nominal fee.
  • The Province and the City of Kelowna signed an MOU in August 2023 that formalized their commitment to work together to better support people who are unhoused or sheltering in encampments through the HEART and HEARTH programs.
  • The HEARTH program enables the rapid development of new shelter and housing options to bring people indoors.
  • The HEART program brings together the provincial and local governments, Indigenous partners, health-care agencies and non-profit organizations to quickly assess the needs of people sheltering in encampments and provide rapid access to the supports and services they need to find a home.

Learn More:

To read the MOU, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BC-MOU_Kelowna_HEART-HEARTH.pdf

For information about the HEART and HEARTH programs, visit:

To read the Belonging in BC plan, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BelongingStrategy.pdf