Plan to help the homeless could save the province millions of dollars every year in the Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Plan to help the homeless could save the province millions of dollars every year in the Okanagan

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July 11, 2021 - 8:00 AM

Even though B.C. Housing has spent tens of millions of dollars on supportive housing for the homeless, there are still many very troubled people living on the streets of Kamloops and Okanagan cities.

There are about 250 people with serious “complex needs” in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Vernon. They have both mental health and addiction issues that make them hard to house in current facilities, states a report going to Kelowna city council on Monday.

“There are no housing models being deployed locally that specifically meet the needs of individuals experiencing complex needs,” the Complex Needs Advocacy Paper states.

Research for the report started in January 2020 and focuses on “individuals experiencing overlapping mental health and substance use disorders who experience homelessness.”

There are 301 people with lower level needs and another 249 with more severe needs, it says. That includes 196 with more severe needs in Kelowna, 42 in Vernon and 11 in West Kelowna, with Indigenous people being overrepresented.

“There is a very significant lack of qualified staff experienced and trained to support individuals experiencing complex needs,” the report states. “The current ‘system’ does not adequately move individuals experiencing complex needs through the spectrum of supports as their circumstances change or relapses occur.”

It recommends that smaller housing facilities – as small as three living units per facility but some with more than 20 – be built, along with the staffing levels needed to help those living there.

Existing supportive housing projects are in the 40 to 50-unit range.

The report recommends that $106 million be spent over three years (from 2022-24) to build the housing, which will cost $9.5 million a year to operate.

But, it says, $14 to $18 million is currently being spent in the Central Okanagan alone to provide the resources to support these people.

The recommended next step in the process is for the city to lobby the provincial government to fund this housing and the supports needed to operate them.

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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