West Kelowna homeless count shows significant problem | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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West Kelowna homeless count shows significant problem

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September 04, 2018 - 5:30 PM

WEST KELOWNA - A first-ever point-in-time homeless count conducted this summer dispels the myth there is no homelessness on the Westside.

The survey was conducted in July and analysis suggests there are at least 72 people experiencing homelessness in West Kelowna, running contrary to suggestions that homeless people there inevitably drift to Kelowna where the majority of services are located.

The count report submitted to West Kelowna council by manager of development services Nancy Henderson presents a much more complex picture of homelessness.

A third of those surveyed, who fit the definition of homelessness, have lived in West Kelowna for more than ten years and another 20 per cent from five to ten years.

In a startling over-representation, three in five identified as having an indigenous background with almost half of those identifying as members of the Westbank First Nation, which has two reserves on the Westside.

Two persons reported having children with them during periods of homelessness. Almost half reported being in foster care or a group home as youth.

In a reverse of the prevailing wisdom, almost 28 per cent identified their previous location as Kelowna with another 20 per cent coming from other parts of the Thompson-Okanagan. Almost 40 per cent located to the Westside because they were visting friends and family or had family that had moved here.

Some findings are of no surprise, such as the prevailing gender (62 per cent male) with addiction or substance abuse given as the top reason (19 per cent) followed by inability to pay rent or mortgage (15 per cent) conflict with spouse (15 per cent) as the top three reasons given for the cause of their homelessness.

Two-thirds had stayed in an emergency shelter and the report says the majority of “rough sleepers" are located in 17 camps near the West Kelowna United Church. Most respondents say they live “unsheltered” (45 per cent) with another 18 per cent couch-surfing with a friend or relative.

The surveys were collected by volunteers during four different “magnet events” in late July.

West Kelowna council will receive the full report at their regular council meeting, 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3 in West Kelowna municipal hall.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald 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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