Majority of Kelowna council candidates want social services spread throughout the city - InfoNews

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Majority of Kelowna council candidates want social services spread throughout the city

Council candidates were asked if services for the needy should be concentrated on Leon Avenue.
October 16, 2018 - 7:00 PM

KELOWNA - The concentration of homeless services and shelters on Leon Avenue in downtown Kelowna has businesses and citizens greatly concerned about crime and safety issues.

Many council contenders pointed out that services for the needy are already common outside the downtown core. It’s just that many people don’t know that.

We candidates this question: Some downtown businesses are concerned with the concentration of social services on the west end of Leon Avenue in the downtown core. Where, specifically, should they be in the city?

Nine of the 15 respondents want services spread throughout the community.

Three others seem to be saying the status quo is good enough – at least in terms of the location of services. And three others waffled somewhat.

Here is a summary of what they said. Complete responses are below.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

Dispersal of services

Colin Basran (For Mayor): Services should be dispersed throughout the community but in areas that are easily accessible. There are many social agencies already providing services across Kelowna that go completely unnoticed. We all need to remember that our vulnerable population are not all criminals just as the rest of our population are not all criminals. These are people who just need the basic necessities of life like shelter and supports.

Ryan Donn: Our most vulnerable population belong throughout Kelowna in every neighbourhood. Services should be more spread out than they currently are.

Tom Dyas (For Mayor): The distribution model, which provides services within our city, should be distributed or shared equally throughout our community. Placing individuals with mental illnesses and or addictions in high risk criminal environments is detrimental to their healing process Our downtown has sadly become unsafe for residents, business owners, workers and tourists.

Gail Given: No matter where you locate these highly needed and critical facilities there is fear and concern from the neighbourhood. The zoning we have in place supports a distributed model. A significant number of social services and supportive housing units are delivered outside of this area.

Charlie Hodge: Ideally the services should be evenly spread about the town with support services (at the five or six hubs).

Graeme James: I believe that these services should be distributed more evenly and to all areas of the City. However, I also believe that Mayor, Council, and City Staff should have an opportunity to research proposed locations, create an opportunity for public input and arrive at service locations that reflect what’s best for the citizens of Kelowna, and those who need these services.

Brad Sieben: The concentration and the large capacity of shelters on Leon is too great. Lower capacity numbers distributed throughout the city where there is not close proximity to retail and residential housing. Our most vulnerable citizens need some shelter services as we work towards long-term housing options.

Luke Stack: Social service agencies that exist today will remain where they are. People without homes should be relocated to long-term supportive housing throughout the City.

Loyal Wooldridge: Dispersed shelter and supportive housing throughout the city will reduce the strain on specific neighbourhoods. A transparent public engagement with BC Housing as to what type of housing is to be built in each neighbourhood is an essential step in the planning process. Each housing project MUST include the appropriate wrap around services to support residents’ specific needs.

Stay where they are

Wayne Carson: These services have to be centered where needed and in this location and area the need is established already. The city needs to provide support to the local businesses to try to lessen the negative aspects to their interests.

Craig Hostland: I believe that social services should be located at street level in a concentrated location near the source of the issues. The present location seems to fit that criteria. Homelessness and vagrancy will not go away. As an abundantly caring society, Kelowna and its volunteers, downtown business groups, and City Hall are ample to manage the crisis, but the social service spaces and holding areas are not well articulated for best results in transition or daily routine.

Dustin Sargent: I think the services need to be provided somewhere consistent and the current locations are acceptable but the real issue isn’t the service buildings locations. We should concentrate on housing,

No definitive answer on location

Gordon Lovegrove: Removing these social services is not an option, but the land on which the Kelowna Gospel Mission sits is worth a fortune and could be used to fund newer, larger facilities.  Key considerations on location include access to transit and other needed services (e.g. cheap food/groceries, counselling, social supports, health care, and daytime activities/jobs).  The chosen alternative to date seems to have been to minimize NIMBY and leave them where they are.  Kelowna’s growth mandates a fresh look.  Is one central location appropriate, or should social services be located in all of our neighborhoods?

Mo Rajabally: Why should we move social services on the west end of Leon Avenue? Has there been any survey done to confirm that downtown businesses are losing money because of the presence of social services, not to mention homeless people?

Mohini Singh: I am open to reviewing this. In the meantime we have increased bylaw and RCMP patrols to respond to complaints and have taken steps to support more transitional housing outside of the downtown core to get people housed. It’s critical that these new beds are accompanied by additional social services and law enforcement to keep vulnerable clients and the surrounding community members safe.

These candidates did not respond.

Lindsay Bell

Kevin Bond

Mark Boyer

Greg Dahms

Maxine DeHart

Bobby Kennedy

Amarjit Singh Lalli

Jeff Piattelli

Bob Schewe

Full Responses

Colin Basran: I believe that services should be dispersed throughout the community but in areas that are easily accessible. There are many social agencies already providing services across Kelowna that go completely unnoticed. With proper supports, it can be done in a way that has no negative impact on neighbourhoods at all and there are many examples, including the Cardington apartments downtown, operated by the John Howard Society and The NOW Canada apartments located across the street from an elementary school in South Pandosy.

We all need to remember that our vulnerable population are not all criminals just as the rest of our population are not all criminals. These are people who just need the basic necessities of life like shelter and supports so they can be successful, contributing members to our community and overcome the reasons they have found themselves on the street in the first place. The best chance for success will come by providing housing and bringing the wrap-around services directly to them.

For the majority of people in this situation, a lack of a safety net, a physical or mental health issue, or an addiction to drugs or alcohol has contributed significantly to where they are at in their life. We cannot forget, these people are someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, or child which is why I support diversity in housing that is dispersed across Kelowna.

Wayne Carson: These services have to be centered where needed and this location and area the need is established already. To try to move it now will just create the same issue elsewhere, it is where it is and the city needs to provide support to the local business to try to lessen the negative aspects to their interests.

Ryan Donn:It's pretty wild to ponder that city councillors have a voice into where some people can live. Imagine me telling you where you could live. Most of us would refuse to even accept that a councillor has that influence. We have an unfortunate growing population of Kelowna that feels that if you struggle with mental health or addiction that rather than living in residential zoning you should live in industrial zoning. Consider that for a moment. My philosophy is that our most vulnerable deserve dignity, they deserve access to services, they deserve choice, and  they deserve addiction/rehabilitation services. In Kelowna sometimes those beliefs are provocative. I wish it wasn't the case. To be more specific I believe that our most venerable population belong throughout Kelowna in every neighbourhood. We share a home with an adult with disabilities. Many years ago a petition was sent around our neighbourhood asking us to kick him out. I was heartbroken. Humans deserve dignity and equality.

I believe that services should be more spread out than they currently are. That said the closure of Inn from the cold and the potential that they won't find a new venue scare me that we will shortly have no options for them to stay. If that happens a tent city will not be far behind.

Tom Dyas: The distribution model, which provides services within our city, should be distributed or shared equally throughout our community. Placing individuals with mental illnesses and or addictions in high risk criminal environments is detrimental to their healing process.                                      

As an original task force member of the Journey Home Project. I was very involved in these discussions from the start. I have a good understanding of the many complex issues and have established strong relationships with many of the agencies involved.

Crime is a complex problem often related to drug use, homelessness and prostitution. Our downtown has sadly become unsafe for residents, business owners, workers and tourists. We need to:

• Re-establish the meetings with BC Housing, RCMP, Interior Health and other community representatives that the City walked away from six months ago

• Align key agencies to support victims and people suffering from mental illness & drug addiction

As Mayor, I will ensure solutions are found to create a safer, healthier, more vibrant downtown by addressing issues through consultation with all agencies and parties involved. I believe that strong leaders get personally involved, just as I have in downtown homelessness and safety issues. My involvement is a vital importance, to gain critical first-hand knowledge, thereby avoiding reliance on second hand reports. I commit to reading all the material, obtain a variety of perspectives, and harness the collective intelligence required for solution focused outcomes.

From my personal involvement, I recognize the long-term importance of the work of Journey Home Task Force to fill the gaps where shorter-term action was not addressed. I propose the following:

• Work to reintroduce and re-establish an integrated community court to deal with criminals

• Lobby governments for the reactivation of the auxiliary policing program which previously provided up to an additional 80 individuals to help secure our streets

• Re-establish the meetings with BC Housing, RCMP, Interior Health and community representation that the city walked away from six months ago

• Align key agencies to support victims and people suffering from mental illness

Gail Given: My experience from the past two terms has demonstrated that no matter where you locate these highly needed and critical facilities there is fear and concern from the neighbourhood, so the decisions are never easy.  The zoning we have in place supports a distributed model without concentration in any one area.  Many might be surprised to learn that a significant number of social services and supportive housing units are delivered outside of this area.

Charlie Hodge: I guess that depends on who is asking and where they live (or work). Not an easy answer as you naturally want to keep resources together for the addict or at risk, yet clearly that causes issues as well. Ideally the services should be evenly spread about the town with support services (at the five or six hubs).

Craig Hostland: I believe that social services should be located at street level in a concentrated location near the source of the issues. The present location seems to fit that criteria. A part of the problem is the mix with business use and pedestrian travel and the desire of businesses and social services to locate near the park or downtown anywhere there is ample street parking and access to green space. Homelessness and vagrancy will not go away. As an abundantly caring society, Kelowna and its volunteers, downtown business groups, and City Hall are ample to manage the crisis, but the social service spaces and holding areas are not well articulated for best results in transition or daily routine. With a fresh council and sharp minds, we can coordinate a better solution which would include taking the social issue directly off the streets and into care environments integrated to provide maximum support with transition and mental health support to put the disadvantaged on the road to recovery. A system to measure retention times and programs such as provided by gospel mission, team challenge, and freedom’s door among other support groups like third space are to be vigorously supported and transition programs defended as key elements for successful transition of the transient. Those that are not transient, require compassionate care, warm bed, and sustenance. Perhaps a fair trade with public service in any number of forms can provide them with reasons for hope and accomplishment.

Graeme James:Some downtown businesses are concerned with the concentration of social services on the west end of Leon Avenue in the downtown core. Where, specifically, should they be in the city?

During my term on Council the concentration of social services on Leon Avenue was a major concern of mine. I believe that these services should be distributed more evenly and to all areas of the City. However, I also believe that Mayor, Council, and City Staff should have an opportunity to research proposed locations, create an opportunity for public input and arrive at service locations that reflect what’s best for the citizens of Kelowna, and those who need these services.

Gordon Lovegrove: At the west end of Leon Avenue, the Kelowna Gospel Mission (KGM) serves a critical support role for those less fortunate and homeless members of our community, providing daily meals and nightly shelter.  My family and I have served, as have many of our friends in painting the bedrooms and/or making spaghetti.  We also appreciate that others in our community might feel less comfortable and feel unsafe when confronted with homeless and the less fortunate people.  A wise man once said “The poor we’ll always have with you” so what to do, remember the UN Sustainable Development Goals place a major focus on ending Poverty (UN SDG #1!).  Removing these social services is not an option, but the land on which the KGM sits is worth a fortune and could be used to fund newer, larger facilities.  Key considerations on location include access to transit and other need services (e.g. cheap food/groceries, counselling, social supports, health care, and daytime activities/jobs).  The chosen alternative to date seems to have been to minimize NIMBY and leave them where they are.  But I would like this re-examined, Kelowna’s growth mandates a fresh look.  Is one central location appropriate, or should social services be located in all of our neighborhoods?  Recently I had an e-mail from a citizen not wanting a supportive living development near them, fearing for degradation of property values and personal safety – I get that, these are real concerns for every potential neighbor.  Get UBCO researchers to help find evidence and case studies from around the world on what works, combined with consultations as part of our Journey Home task force.  Kelowna’s greatest asset are its people, lets put our minds together and find a win-win made-for-Kelowna solution, they are out there, I’ve seen them in several countries around the world!

Mo Rajabally:If we believe in Canada Charter of Rights and Freedom, why should we move social services on the west end of Leon Avenue? Has there been any survey done to confirm that downtown businesses are losing money because of the presence of social services, not to mention homeless people?

Dustin Sargent: I think the services need to be provided somewhere consistent and the current locations are acceptable but the real issue isn’t the service buildings locations. We should concentrate on housing, I am a believer in the Housing First Journey home initiative. This with creative positive business influences, street beautification and traffic activation to combat concentrated service areas could influence the perception and looks for these areas. It is important to understand that this is not an over-night solution.

Brad Sieben: Social Services is a general term and needs to be defined further.  If this is to mean shelters, then yes, we have seen firsthand that the concentration and the large capacity of shelters on Leon is too great. Site selection and max. capacity for shelter services must be looked at closely as experience has shown that their operations have an impact on surrounding businesses and properties.  Lower capacity numbers distributed throughout the city where there is not close proximity to retail and residential housing.  In saying this, our most vulnerable citizens need some shelter services as we work towards long-term housing options and the transformation of shelters back to the emergency purpose they were intended for (long term housing in many cases now as there aren't other options).

Mohini Singh:As part of the overarching housing first strategy through Journey Home we need to look at whether or not shelter housing should be downtown. I am open to reviewing this. In the meantime we have increased bylaw and RCMP patrols to respond to complaints and have taken steps to support more transitional housing outside of the downtown core to get people housed. It’s critical that these new beds are accompanied by additional social services and law enforcement to keep vulnerable clients and the surrounding community members safe.
I believe crime in any city is a symptom of underlying socioeconomic issues (e.g. poverty, homelessness) in some instances, and willful conduct in others. I believe the distinction between these two categories is very important in addressing the issue and finding solutions that fit. I will continue to support funding for additional RCMP officers as requested, and community policing; partnerships between local social support agencies and law enforcement to work on reducing the frequency/severity of incidences, and overall impact on our community; and increased security and bylaw enforcement downtown.  As we move forward, I think these measures in tandem with other initiatives like Journey Home and harm reduction projects undertaken by our local community agencies will best allow us to decrease our crime rates in a sustainable manner.

Luke Stack: Social service agencies that exist today will remain where they are. (If they currently meet zoning requirements - Council does not dictate where they can operate from.) People without homes should be relocated to long-term supportive housing throughout the City. Too this end, BC Housing and several non-profit societies have several projects under way. There is some housing on Gordon Drive, some on Highway 97, some on Commerce Avenue, and some proposed in the Orchard Park area.

Loyal Wooldridge: Dispersed shelter and supportive housing throughout the city will reduce the strain on specific neighbourhoods. A transparent public engagement with BC Housing as to what type of housing is to be built in each neighbourhood is an essential step in the planning process.

First, each housing project MUST include the appropriate wrap around services to support resident’s specific needs.  For example, abused homeless women who actively use drugs require a different level of care than that of homeless men who are now clean.  Each segment will require specific social supports and should not be located near one another to reduce negative effects on those with low resiliency.

Secondly, shelters and supportive housing should be located in areas of town that have access to public transit for appropriate access to services.  Purpose built housing will ensure design measures that ensure the safety and security of everyone.

We all wear this as a national challenge and no one neighbourhood or street can handle a high concentration of people who need a high level of care.  As we shape our Official Community Plan, supportive housing must be included for even distribution throughout Kelowna.

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