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Social development manager takes on difficult homelessness file in Kelowna

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August 02, 2016 - 1:26 PM

KELOWNA - First order of business for the person hired by Kelowna for a more hands-on approach to the problem of homelessness is just to get to know who the players are.

“It’s obviously a complex problem,” the city's active living director Jim Gabriel says.

“Getting an understanding of the landscape and the key players in the community and taking inventory of the current state of affairs, who’s doing what, beginning to connect with other staff and other agencies, that’s what we want her to do," he says.

Gabriel says Sue Wheeler from Maple Ridge was hired as the city's new social development manager and began working mid-July.

The next step is to get her to before council this fall, Gabriel says, with some initial recommendations and continued direction.

“The idea is she will have a snapshot of what’s going, here’s what we recommend for our approach,” Gabriel says.

Wheeler’s position was created last year by council who have put forth homelessness as one of the city’s top priorities and saw the need for a more hands-on approach to the problem.

Gabriel says the city is not trying to dictate policy to non-profit agencies but rather help coordinate and streamline efforts to counter a pernicious street homelessness problem.

“Many players need to be at the table for this to work so she will continue to build those relationships and connections,” Gabriel adds.

Wheeler has a term contract for two years, with the option of extending it an extra year. Gabriel did not know her exact salary but says it is over $75,000 a year.

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