11:29 AM

Province, City of Kelowna work together to address homelessness

KELOWNA - The Province and the City of Kelowna have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that formalizes their commitment to work together to better support people who are unhoused, sheltering in encampments and to help prevent encampments in the future.

“We are taking action every week of the year to break the cycle of homelessness, including this week during Homelessness Action Week,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We’re proud to be working in partnership with the City of Kelowna to create new tools to address the homelessness crisis in the Central Okanagan, but we know more work must be done. That’s why we will continue to work closely with local partners to establish a regional approach to homelessness to best support the most vulnerable members in the community.”

The MOU clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the Province and city to prioritize the health and safety of people sheltering outdoors, create new temporary housing options to transition people who are currently in encampments, indoors. This includes rapid development of new shelter and housing options, as well as a more co-ordinated approach to outreach and support services. Through the MOU, the city commits to bring forward available land and expedite land-use decisions for new shelter and supportive-housing projects.

Work is already underway to deliver on the commitments in the MOU. BC Housing is in discussions with Kelowna to build 120 net new units over the coming months, and is actively engaging with the city on opportunities to create more indoor shelter solutions. The units will be funded through the new Homeless Encampment Action Response Temporary Housing (HEARTH) program and are intended as a temporary housing solution, providing time for BC Housing to continue working with the city to identify new permanent supportive housing. More information will be shared publicly as details are confirmed.

"The need for shelter and housing solutions in our community has never been greater. Working together with the Province, I am pleased to see these quick and meaningful actions underway that are helping support those living unhoused access safe shelter," said Tom Dyas, mayor of Kelowna. “We look forward to continuing this momentum of collaboration as we work together to create solutions across our city and region.”

Kelowna will also be the first location in the Interior to use a tiny-home solution, which features small single-room units that are quick and easy to install.

Once built, these new homes will be operated by experienced non-profits who will provide support services such as daily meals, 24/7 staffing, access to skills training and support navigating the housing system. Individuals moving into these new homes will be assessed and matched with appropriate supports.

In addition, the Province and city are partnering to implement Homeless Encampment Action Response Teams (HEART), a new multidisciplinary regional program designed to rapidly respond to encampments to better support people sheltering outdoors to move inside. The program will bring 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. Health, sanitation, income, harm reduction, fire safety, and social and cultural supports will all be provided through the program.

Kelowna joins Prince George as the two municipalities to partner with the Province and BC Housing to implement HEART and HEARTH programs. The Province will continue to explore opportunities with other local governments to implement these programs.

Both the HEART and HEARTH programs are part of Belonging in BC, the Province’s plan to prevent and reduce homelessness. The plan will also add 3,900 new supportive-housing units and 240 complex-care housing units provincewide.

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 program, visit: https://www.bchousing.org/housing-assistance/homelessness-services/HEART-HEARTH

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