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Randy Benson retiring after nearly two decades at Kelowna's Gospel Mission

Randy Benson, executive director of Kelowna's Gospel Mission, is retiring.
Image Credit: Kelowna's Gospel Mission
December 03, 2019 - 10:15 AM

It may seem like the job of sheltering and caring for the homelss is a thankless job but after nearly 20 years as executive director of Kelowna's Gospel Mission, Randy Benson is retiring with some good memories.

When asked by iNFOnews.ca today, Dec. 3, if there were highlights in his time at the Mission, he hesitated for a moment.

“Where do I start?” he said.

“Certainly we’ve seen a lot of successes if you want to call them that. We’ve seen so many people where we’ve been able to help give them a hand up, help them find the services they need to get back on their feet, to get employment, to get housing, to get re-established with their families and just to get back into a life that’s productive and fulfilling. In the midst of all the challenges and chaos, there are a lot of bright spots where people find hope and that’s been very rewarding.”

Benson came to Kelowna in 1993 as a youth pastor at Willow Park Church and took on the role of executive director of the Gospel Mission in 2001, thinking it would be an interim position.

At that time, it was smaller with 30 to 35 men staying each night.

Then, about 15 years ago, the use of crystal meth exploded so there was a growth in the number of homeless for a while before things levelled out but he’s never seen problems like there have been the last few years.

“The complexity of homelessness has certainly grown,” Benson said. “The issues that my staff and other service providers are dealing with today are much more complex than they were a few years ago."

“Certainly, the people working with our homeless population today need more training. We have that training now in a lot of different areas, having to deal with addictions, mental illness – our staff takes mental health first aid – dealing with crisis situations, dealing with violent situations."

He laughs when asked if he’s retiring now because the growing homeless population and complexity are wearing him down.

“I turned 65 last summer,” he said. “I’ve got some things on the horizon. Certainly, it’s not because it’s taken a toll on me. It’s just time to make some changes in my life.”

One of those changes is that he’s getting married in April.

Benson plans to work with the board of directors at the Gospel Mission to find a replacement with a target of leaving sometime next summer.

Is he optimistic that this latest homeless crisis will fade as in the past?

“The homeless situation across our province and across Canada and, certainly, down in the States, it seems everybody is facing the same situation,” Benson said. “The needs are growing so it may be a sign of the times and our society may have to change its attitude towards homelessness and the way we deal with the situation. I don’t know if it’s going to go away or not.”

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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News from © iNFOnews, 2019

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