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Kelowna survey explores homeless shelter culture

Darlene Taylor poses for a photo.
December 21, 2018 - 1:30 PM

KELOWNA - A university assistant professor's recent survey paints a more nuanced portrait of shelters and homelessness in Kelowna.

Darlene Taylor, an assistant professor from UBC Okanagan's School of Nursing, conducted a survey at the Kelowna Gospel Mission from July 4 to Aug. 4. She interviewed 94 people who use the mission's food and shelter services.

The majority of participants (82 per cent) were men, while the average age was 45. Seventy-two per cent of people surveyed identified as homeless.

As opposed to the common belief that most shelter users are transient, 66 per cent of Taylor's survey respondents reported living in Kelowna for at least five years. Seventy-three per cent of mission attendees admitted to using the services to supplement pension, disability and welfare benefits.

Drug use is a major factor in the survey. Eighty-nine per cent of participants admitted to using drugs at some point in their lives, while 29 per cent stated they'd lived through opioid overdoses. Many credited Naloxone for saving their lives during these overdoses.

Taylor conducted a similar survey in 2017 at the Upper Room Mission in Vernon, although she doesn't believe the results are comparable since both surveys had different questions and situations.

"The groups were too different to compare," she said.

Taylor plans to conduct further study into drug use. She wants to delve deeper into prescription drug abuse by non-homeless people, as data on that group is currently slim.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 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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