100 Homes Penticton, via the United Way Central & South Okanagan, is hoping the city will become a designated community part of Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy.
According to Jude Brunt, the community investment manager with United Way Central & South Okanagan, Kelowna is already one of 61 communities included in the strategy. If Penticton were to become a designated community, Brunt said it would give the city access to more federal funding for initiatives reducing homelessness.
“It would give some longer term funding to start, which is great. So rather than short-term funding for programs, it means federal funding is longer term and more significant,” said Brunt. “With the program’s predecessor, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, we were able to recruit our housing locator. We’ve had someone in that role for the last 18 months to two years and that was in danger of coming to an end.”
Brunt said this person “liaises with private landlords in Penticton to educate them on how they could potentially rent to somebody that is currently homeless.” They also provide information to homeless people about “how to be a good tenant”, and runs the certificated Rent Smart program which is available for homeless individuals to participate in to learn about “the residential tenancy act, paying rent on time and looking after a property” and more.
“(Being included in the strategy) would help fund this position and other types of initiatives in Penticton on a much longer term basis,” said Brunt. “It would also help fund additional houses, so seed money for getting additional housing off the ground or helping agencies run these housing programs.”
Not to mention, being acknowledged as a designated community would bring Penticton and its homelessness issue into the spotlight on a national level. Brunt said this in turn would lead to better conversations about addressing the issue.
“It would really just open up the conversation to a wider audience. More people will become educated and knowledgeable about the complexity of the issue,” said Brunt. “There’s no one-quick-fix solution, it’s going to take the entire city and all of its component parts to work together on it. And being one of the designated communities will highlight that.
March 8 was the deadline for communities to apply to be considered for the strategy, and Brunt is confident that Penticton has a good shot in being one of the four to six communities that will be added in April. Penticton city council recently provided a letter of support to 100 Homes following a presentation during the regular meeting on March 5.
“We’ll find out in mid-April if we’ve been shortlisted and we’ll have to provide a much more detailed application at that stage. We also have the support of the Canadian Alliance to End Homeless (CAEH) in our favour, they’ve written a very strong letter of support to the federal government to suggest that all seven of the communities that are involved with the federal initiative 20,000 Homes should be made designated communities,” said Brunt. “We’ve been involved with that since the get-go as a partner. And CAEH has suggested that the government add all seven to this strategy.”
Brunt said while they wait to hear if Penticton made the shortlist, the work will still continue in the community to collaborate with other agencies and initiatives. In addition, 100 Homes will be meeting with similar program operators from Vernon and Kelowna since they face similar difficulties, a first according to Brunt.
“We’re already working on increased collaboration, 100 Homes has already been very progressive and hardworking in terms of starting to form those partnerships,” said Brunt. “We have plans in the works for Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton to meet in May to really share ideas.
“There’s lots of similarities between the three communities and lots of difference too. But sharing ideas and concepts that work is always a good thing.”
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