Journey Home’s efforts to fight homelessness in Kelowna at risk after snap council decision | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Journey Home’s efforts to fight homelessness in Kelowna at risk after snap council decision

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It took less than a minute for new Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas to deliver what could be a fatal blow to the Journey Home Society and its efforts to battle homelessness in the city.

That moment came at Monday’s city council meeting when he got council to defer a motion to simply pass $88,850 in federal funds through to Journey Home.

“I felt blind-sided and just deeply concerned for what appears to be the lack of understanding of, first off, the work that we’re doing and, secondly the implications and negative consequences that this decision has made for the community and our ability to roll this out on behalf of Kelowna, as well as it impacts on the viability of our organization,” Stephanie Gauthier, executive director of Journey Home told today, Dec. 1.

She sat through three hours of the council meeting waiting to speak to council about what was expected to be a routine item.

Instead, Dyas said he wanted more information on Journey Home’s tax granting status and wanted to defer any further discussion until the new council sets its priorities for the coming term.

The deferral motion was passed in less than a minute with neither staff nor Gauthier given any chance to speak to it.

The delay means Journey Home has to draw on slim reserve funds to continue programs funded and mandated by the federal government.

Gauthier has been told by staff that it will likely be January or February before the item returns to council chambers.

“That top-up funding that we were supposed to receive from the federal government was supposed to be applied across the fiscal year and it can’t be used retroactively,” Gauthier said. “If we don’t receive the funding until January or February then, basically, it’s lost funding.”

If the money comes through in February it can’t be used to replenish the reserve funds. If it’s not all spent by the end of the fiscal year on March 31 – which would be highly unlikely – it would normally have to be returned to Ottawa.

If that happens, Gauthier will lobby to have the funds carried over into the next fiscal year.

What it also means is that other projects, such as working on the issue of complex care, won’t get done.

Council’s decision also rattles the community’s faith in the organization.

“We’re often called to task around what we are we doing and are we doing enough and are we doing things fast enough so, when there are intentional roadblocks put before us and the work we are doing on behalf of the federal government, it’s very concerning,” Gauthier said. “It was a disturbing decision.”

Last spring she presented a detailed report to council on why Journey Home has not been able to make progress on the number of homeless in the city – in large part due to rising housing and rental prices forcing more people out onto the streets than ever anticipated.

READ MORE: Kelowna's homeless population expected to double by 2026

That report also accurately forecast that there would be about 140 people without shelter by October.

“There’s a lack of awareness, I think, in understanding the role of Journey Home and what it is we actually do in the community,” Gauthier said. “There’s a lack of recognition around the implications these kind of decisions have on the community's work to address homelessness.”

Kelowna is one of 40 “designated cities” under the federal government’s Reaching Home strategy and works to coordinate efforts by service agencies so resources aren't duplicated and it's easier for those in need to navigate the system.

Earlier this year the government, through Reaching Home, provided Journey Home with about $68,000 in base funding for certain programs.

That money was channeled through the city.

The federal government assigned another $88,500 in top-up funds to Journey Home to provide mandated programs.

Monday’s report to council was simply to amend what’s called an intermediary agreement so the money could go to Journey Home.

Dyas did not return a request from for an interview by publication time.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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