Homelessness in Kelowna the target of new social development manager

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KELOWNA - With homelessness on the rise in the city and rental housing almost non-existent, Sue Wheeler has her work cut out for her.

Wheeler has been hired as the city’s social development manager, a new position created by council after it declared homelessness and housing a top priority.

Her job, simply put, is to try as best she can to help coordinate the efforts of local social services agencies that deal with the homeless and the hard to house and persuade them to adopt best practices and reduce barriers to immediate housing.

While there is some urgency to the task — Kelowna’s vacancy rate is around 0.6 per cent and winter is just around the corner — Wheeler says she needs the time to figure out the current situation before coming back to council in the fall with a recommendation on a process to get people off the street and into housing.

Wheeler is from Maple Ridge where she worked for the city in community development so she must add unfamiliarity with Kelowna’s system to her learning curve.

“It’s important to take that time to understand the process. Right now I’m taking the time to really learn and meet everyone in the community because there is so much strength in those partnerships,” she adds.

Council has endorsed the Housing First strategy and Wheeler views it as best practice for dealing with the homeless.

“There are other communities already on this path. It is how communities that have been successful have been doing it,” she adds.

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