Community leaders are coming together with a new drive to solve the issue of homelessness in Penticton.
An informal count done last year, said Ian Gerbrandt of the United Way, showed there are about 60 homeless people on the streets of Penticton.
Calling their initiative 100 Homes Penticton, the new group has the goal of working together to provide housing and supports to 100 vulnerable people in our community by July, 2018.
“We deliberately chose a goal of 100 homes, because we know people are exiting and entering homelessness all the time,” said Gerbrandt, explaining that the number of homeless constantly change.
The first step, said Tanya Behardien of the Penticton and District Community Resource Society, is getting to know the extent of the problem, literally as part of creating a housing registry.
“Teams of volunteers will canvass our shelters and streets … to ensure that we know every homeless person by name,” said Behardien, adding that process will start Nov. 7.
Ian Gerbrandt of the United way said that is the first of six core elements that make up their plan.
“Over the next two years, we are going to be reaching out,” he said.
The other elements include creating a co-ordinated process of intake and vulnerability assessment.
“These two elements are really important. To give priority for housing to those most in need,” said Gerbrandt.
A third factor is implementing a housing first policy, which he said is a proven approach for supporting people struggling with complex needs.
“The best thing you can do is first give them a home,” said Gerbrandt. “Once a person has a house and address, they can start to work on personal issues.”
Other core elements include using data to track progress, sharing information with other communities, and providing a united voice on homeless issues.
“Without a doubt, the provincial and federal governments have the biggest levers and the biggest purses, but one thing we see time and again, is local leadership matters,” said Gerbrandt.
According to their studies, about 85 per cent of homeless can be considered transitional and more easily moved back into the mainstream.
The remaining 15 per cent, Gerbrandt said, have more complex issues.
“These are the people that housing first really works for,” he said.
The 100 homes initiative is part of a larger national campaign, called 20,000 Homes, organized by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
More than 30 communities across Canada have already signed up, and housed more than 2,000 people.
“We want Penticton to be the next municipality, the fourth in B.C. to join,” said Behardien.
People wanting to help can start by supporting the campaign at change.org, where they can sign a petition to support the campaign and then receive updates on progress and volunteer activities.
100 Homes petition: Striving to house and support 100 vulnerable people
The Fairhaven low-income housing project is a first step to the goal according to Gerbrandt, but they aren’t sure what form later housing phases will take.
“Really, it is a call to our community to get creative on this issue,” said Gerbrandt.