Frustration about Kelowna’s homelessness crises boils over at City Hall | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Frustration about Kelowna’s homelessness crises boils over at City Hall

Journey Home chair Kyleen Myrah updated Kelowna city council, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019.
September 16, 2019 - 2:00 PM

KELOWNA - It’s not just downtown business owners and Rutland residents who are fed up with the seemingly endless parade of crime, drug use and homelessness in Kelowna.

Coun. Charlie Hodge and Mayor Colin Basran both let their frustration show at City Hall today, Sept. 16, during an update on the Journey Home strategy to tackle homelessness.

Dr. Kyleen Myrah, who chairs the Journey Home board, talked about the building process the society has gone through and the data it’s collecting.

When Hodge asked for a tally of rehab and mental health facilities in Kelowna, no one had the answer.

“My frustration is, if indeed it’s your job to gather this data and you don’t have it, how are we going to get it?” Hodge asked. “You’d think this is a collaboration and a collection point for all that data. And I can’t get an answer today about how many actual rehab centres we have or how many mental health facilities we have?"

“With the housing especially and all the work that’s being done, we’ve come a long ways, but in my view - from what I see on the streets or hear or get told - we have a lack of those critical facilities that we need to move forward. That continuum of care, that follow-up process.”

Basran picked up on that point.

“Part of our frustration as a council is we’re in a hurry to get someplace,” he said. “We want something to agitate for. We want to pound the table for you.”

All councillors had praise for what Journey Home has done since a task force was struck three years ago but like so many Kelowna residents, they don’t see anything getting better on the streets.

Myrah noted that the formal Central Okanagan Journey Home Society is only seven months old and that it’s run by a volunteer board with the support of a couple of staff members.

As well as creating a new organization, it has also been connecting with the 360 organizations in the city that have something to do with homelessness, trying to coordinate efforts and eliminate duplication.

It’s also trying to collect data on who the homeless are, how many move in and out of the system, how many succeed and fail, what works and, of course, things like how many rehab spaces are in the city.

That is expected to come together by March 2020 but some of the key information will be presented this fall, Myrah said.

None of that can come soon enough for council.

“I understand, first you need the data to inform what we need,” Basran said. “Otherwise we’re just chasing our tail and doing the same thing over and over."

“I would assume the data is going to be pretty obvious about what the highest priority should be," he said. "That’s why it’s killing us. There’s patience needed, and I get it, we need the data, but we are so ready and willing to go to the province and say we need this, but we need the data first. We’re just going to have to be patient but it’s frustrating.”

Myrah will be making presentations in early October during a three-day Politics of Housing session being put on by UBC Okanagan.

There is also another three days of events around Word Homeless Day on Oct. 10, including multiple showings of the movie Us and Them.

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