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City of Kelowna take lead on homelessness file

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November 10, 2015 - 9:00 PM

KELOWNA - One of the front-line agencies dealing with the homeless in Kelowna is thrilled to see the city step up and provide leadership with plans to hire a full-time homeless coordinator.

Local John Howard Society executive director Gaelene Askeland also says the city is on the right track embracing the low-barrier housing first philosophy that tries to provide housing for anyone who asks.

“The evidence seems to be incontrovertible that it works,” Askeland says. “There’s greater opportunity for social and community integration. If we can facilitate longer term success, they are less likely to return to the streets."

What needs to be solved, according to Askeland, is not the first two years, but the point after that when a client has stabilized and is ready to move on to market housing.

But they face a market with little inventory and high prices, not to mention the prejudices of landlords who may have little interest in renting to an ex-addict.

“There’s not a whole lot of options out there,” she says.

John Howard Society already runs the Cardington Apartments on St. Paul Street in downtown Kelowna. The 44-unit building was constructed on city-owned land and was the original low-barrier housing project from the mid-2000s.

Askeland says she could fill Cardington two times over just with people on the waiting list, but can’t get past the bottleneck of longer-term clients who haven’t been able to make the jump to market housing.

Still, she’s welcoming the city’s presence at the table and the stabilizing influence of a full-time coordinator.

“There’s these different initiatives, but it hasn’t really been coordinated. There’s nobody pulling everyone together and that needs to come from somewhere,” Askeland says. "If this person has the authority of the city and the personality to deal with all the players, then we are all for it.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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