All across the nation communities are recognizing that the people living without homes are extremely vulnerable and face distinct  health risks related to COVID-19. The Province, under its mandate related to housing and public health, has a Vulnerable Populations Working Group in place in response to COVID-19 to identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced by people living on the streets or staying in shelters or supportive housing.

In Kelowna, a structure is in place, with Journey Home in the lead, coordinating all local efforts to apply and respond to the Provinces’ direction in meeting the current and evolving needs of the people living without homes in our community.

“The level of collaboration and coordination is unprecedented,” said Stephanie Ball, Executive Director. “The fact that our community has the Journey Home Strategy, and the Journey Home organization in place to convene and lead, along with a commitment to work collaboratively across all organizations that touch this population has been instrumental in positioning our community to address the challenges the pandemic presents.”

With the Province supplying the guidelines, local shelter and housing with supports operators have developed and mobilized a number of protocols related to social distancing, enhanced cleaning and monitoring.

“Supporting our most vulnerable neighbours helps keep everyone safer and is good for the entire community,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge, but our strong partnership with Journey Home and the City of Kelowna will help us get through this, together.”

Journey Home is working in partnership with BC Housing, Interior Health, the City of Kelowna, local service providers, and stakeholders to implement short, and long-term solutions based on local innovations and connections to what is happening across the nation.

“One of the unique and community-driven responses include the Metro Community’s space which has been retrofitted as a hygiene centre with showers and laundry for people experiencing homelessness that are currently sheltering outdoors,” said Ball. “PEOPLE Employment Services is supplying peers to the awesome team at Welcome Inn, and the peers have been instrumental in helping to activate this service.  Having these kinds of collaborations is a real strength of our community.”

Through Canadian Mental Health Association, all community outreach services are being coordinated with a number of organizations contributing to ensure that those sheltering outside have access to basic needs like food services, health supplies, and emotional support.  PEOPLE are supplying peer navigators to enhance supports for those most at risk so that they can safely self-isolate.

“To see the level of coordination and willingness to contribute from all the organizations from every sector across the community is phenomenal – there is a long long list of contributors,” said Ball. “With the level of care and concern the community is displaying to those at most risk of COVID, I trust that in this challenging time our Kelowna neighbours will continue to take Dr. Henry, BC’s Medical Health Officers’ advice, to be kind and watch out for each other because we are all in this together.”

For more information about the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society and the Journey Home Strategy, visit journeyhome.ca.