2000 People

homelessness in
Kelowna each year

21% of People

who experience
homelessness in Kelowna
have Indigenous ancestry

Learn More and Help Solve

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See the Person Beyond the Stigma

We all have a role to play in addressing homelessness. It can be as easy as a warm smile and saying 'hello'.

Stigma can tempt us to ignore homelessness, to turn away from it. But, that won't solve the issue. Let's face it and find the solution together.

The Faces of Homelessness

The community of people who experience homelessness is as diverse and varied as any other group. There’s no one face of homelessness because everyone who experiences it is unique.

The only way we can face homelessness is by recognizing the individuals behind the issue.

These are some of their stories

Knowledge Can Help Solve Homelessness

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Face Homelessness

You may wonder what you can do to help solve homelessness. You’re just one person,
but there’s a lot you can do to help.

Some things are hard to look at or painful to think about. They make us uncomfortable or embarrassed. It’s tempting to look away, to ignore the problem and the people who suffer because of it.

But, you can’t solve a problem by ignoring it.

Homelessness is one of those uncomfortable issues. In a country as rich as Canada, it’s shameful to think there are people without a safe, reliable place to call home each night.

It’s easy to ignore the issue, to pretend we don’t see the people behind it, but we already know that approach won’t work. To address homelessness, we need to face it, acknowledge it and recognize that everyone has a role to play in solving it.

The Journey Home Strategy lists 35 actions to be implemented over its five-year span. We place people and their experiences at the centre of our work always.

The Journey Home Strategy was developed with more than 2,000 points of community engagement.

How We
Face Homelessness

Each of us has travelled our own unique path to arrive where we are today. For some, the road has been easy. Good health, good parents, a good education and enough to eat have paved the way for a comfortable, fulfilling life. There are bumps in the road, of course – like job loss, injury or divorce – but these people have a community around them to help right the ship when things go sideways.

Others aren’t so lucky. For them, injury could mean they lose their job, job loss might mean serious financial strain, and an end to their marriage might lead them into homelessness.

Each journey into homelessness is as unique as the individual who experiences it. Some struggle with their mental health, while others don’t.

Some struggle with substance use, while others don’t.

Homelessness is most often a low point in the lives of people who experience it, a period of crisis brought about by impossible situations that are often completely out of their control. The first step in facing homelessness is to understand the people behind the issue, their unique stories and the factors that led them there.


Things will only change when people get to know us… we need to put faces to the experience.

- Lived Experience Circle Member


The Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH) identified stigma as an important contributor to homelessness early in the development of the Journey Home Strategy. They saw stigma as more than an emotional hardship or a cause of hurt feelings, they saw it creating real barriers that prolong and perpetuate homelessness.

More than 300 homes with supports have been built in Kelowna since 2017, which is a key target of the Journey Home Strategy. This significant accomplishment comes as a result of cooperation and coordination with BC Housing, the City of Kelowna and the various housing with support site operators.

What is Stigma

Stigma is a set of negative or unfair beliefs that we hold about certain people, actions or things. We see it play out every day toward substance use, mental health issues, sexual orientation and identity, and homelessness. It’s the force in our society that makes us fear certain people, to judge them, or to ignore them completely. Stigma reveals itself as harsh words and anger, but it can also be subtle, like choosing not to say hello or crossing the street to avoid someone.

Our perceptions are shaped by the people around us and we can develop stigmatizing views without even knowing it.

What is the Impact

From the outside, stigma might seem like a minor issue. We’ve all felt disrespected or poorly treated at times. It upsets us but we tend to move on and forget about it. The difference with the stigma faced by people experiencing homelessness is that they are so often ignored or met with hostility that those experiences can become traumatizing.

People experiencing homelessness see the pathway to a better life evaporate as stigma closes the door on basic services, employment and housing opportunities. Their identity becomes tied to homelessness, and the income and stability needed for reliable housing moves further out of their reach.

The Negative Impacts of Stigma

For many who experience homelessness, the stigma they encounter can lead to feelings of shame, hopelessness and isolation. They feel alone and cut off from the rest of society, which can result in worsening wellbeing and the sense that the journey out of homelessness is too far out of reach.

Stigma creates barriers aside from those internal ones. It blocks access to those things that are necessary to begin the journey away from homelessness. A safe place to sleep each night, a job, something as simple as getting the ID needed to access support services can be made much more difficult because of stigma.

What is Stigma? Stigma is a set of negative or unfair beliefs that we hold about certain people, actions or things.

Stigma can also contribute to reduced social serving sector capacity, limiting the resources available for people experiencing homelessness. Stigma can impact the ability to develop new services and housing for our most vulnerable citizens. Community opposition to emergency shelters means people sheltering outside may not have access to that first foothold on a better future. Opposition to affordable housing and housing with supports projects may mean shelter residents miss the opportunity to transition to more permanent housing.  

A project that’s delayed a few months, or even a few weeks, can have serious consequences for people experiencing homelessness.

Saddest of all is that opposition to these projects is often grounded in false or exaggerated fears that they will result in increasing crime rates or decreasing property values. In most cases, that simply isn’t true.

Getting kicked out of family, feeling no sense of belonging, connection or purpose. In seeking community, I found a place where people understood me, accepted me.

- Lived Experience Circle Member

Homelessness According to the Numbers

Though statistics tell an incomplete story of homelessness, they can shed light on the issue and the people who experience it.

The Central Okanagan Foundation’s 2020 Point-in-Time Count provides a snapshot of homelessness in the Central Okanagan taken on March 10, 2020. Findings were based on reports from shelters and other housing locations, and 75 volunteers surveying unsheltered locations.

225 People

were found stayingin shelters

253 People

were identified in other interim housing

82 People

were ininstitutional care

72 People

were shelteringoutside

2 People

were unsure where they would spend the night

A total of 249 surveys were returned from the individuals included in the count:

89% of People

were between 25 and 64 years old

1 in 5 People

identified as Indigenous or had Indigenous ancestry

71% of People

identified as male, 27% female, 1% transgender and 0.4% as other

72% of People

experienced homelessness for six months or more in the past year

Top Five Reasons Given for Housing Loss:

Household conflict
Not enough income for housing
Substance use issues
Conflict with landlord
Illness or medical condition

A home is a safe place where no harm can come to you. It's also a place to keep my stuff.

- Youth Focus Group Participant

How You Can Help

Homelessness has an impact on all of us, not just those who experience it directly. Kelowna isn’t just a city, it’s a community. We all have a role to play in making homelessness history, just as we’ll all benefit from a community that’s made healthier, happier, wealthier and more productive by addressing homelessness.

Change your behaviour

Smile and say ‘hello’

Help dispel feelings of inferiority or invisibility by recognizing someone’s humanity. A little more kindness in the world doesn’t hurt anyone.

Learn more about homelessness in your community

Congratulations, you’re here so you have this underway already.

Support projects geared at ending homelessness

We need to take proactive and purposeful steps to end homelessness. Fortunately, we know the way. It lies through increases in affordable housing, housing with supports, and reimagining emergency shelters. These projects benefit from public support, so lend them your voice whenever you can.


Organizations working in the social serving sector create a tangible impact every day. We all stretch our budgets as far as they can go. Every dollar makes a difference.

Challenge your assumptions

It’s easy to judge someone based on their circumstances, but those assumptions often aren’t fair. Challenge yourself to see past a person’s outward appearance, recognizing the human being underneath.

Challenge your reactions

Meeting and interacting with people who experience homelessness may prompt feelings of anxiety or even fear. It’s important to recognize where these feelings come from. A person might make you feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean they pose a threat. Many people experiencing homelessness feel invisible, ignored and often avoided.

Our conversation as a community is not finished, it’s only just begun.

- Reconciliation Design Lab Participant

Why You Should Help

We all have a stake in ending homelessness, just as we all have a stake in improving the community where we live. An end to homelessness means a better Central Okanagan for everyone. 

Here’s a few good reasons to lend your support as we work to end homelessness:

We Know How

We have a model to address homelessness that’s been proven effective in communities across Canada. It is based on the foundational belief that housing is a human right. “Housing First” is an approach that focuses on moving people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing as the first step. Substance use, mental health and any other experiences can be addressed from the foundation of stable housing and are not seen as issues that must be addressed before becoming housed. Research supports the housing-first approach, as does the real-world application in Medicine Hat, Alberta and other cities across North America. We know, and statistics show, that most people who use substances or live with compromised mental health, will never become homeless. We recognize and strongly believe that everyone has an equitable right to be housed without judgement.

It Makes Sense

It can seem counterintuitive to some, but research shows proactively addressing homelessness costs less in the long term than doing nothing. Homelessness is costly when crisis responses from the social, health care and justice systems are taken into account. Shelters, hospital visits and police responses all come with a hefty price tag. Of course, there is a cost to provide safe, reliable and appropriate housing for people experiencing homelessness, but that cost is more than offset by reduced use of these other systems.

It’s Morally Right

The human cost of homelessness is far greater than the price in dollars and cents. It robs our neighbours, friends and family members of the health, happiness and security they deserve. Ending homelessness isn’t just economically responsible, it’s morally right. Each of us has a role in building a better community and there are few things we could do that would rival the impact of ending homelessness. Let’s work together to make our community kinder, let’s end homelessness together.

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