Vernon housing project set to open, but more needed to end homelessness in area, advocates say

Click to play video: 'A look inside Vernon’s new supportive housing project'
A look inside Vernon’s new supportive housing project
A look inside Vernon’s new supportive housing project – May 23, 2019

Their city has struggled for years with highly visible homelessness challenges, so at a press conference on Thursday, Vernon civic officials were thankful for a new supportive housing project that’s about to open its doors.

When it is finished in June, the modular apartment building on 27 Avenue will house more than 50 low-income residents.

However, those who work with the city’s homeless population agree it won’t provide enough beds to house everyone.

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Click to play video: 'Even the homeless are shocked by number of Kelowna homeless'
Even the homeless are shocked by number of Kelowna homeless

In fact, Turning Points Collaborative Society, the social service agency that will run the supportive housing project, already has tenants identified for all 52 units.

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“Right now we are contacting them and making sure that they are still in need because they were assessed for the facility,” said Randene Wejr, one of the society’s executive directors.

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The province’s housing minister was on hand and acknowledged the need for more housing.

“We need lots of housing,” said Minister Selina Robinson.

“We need housing right through to people who make middle incomes, because we know that everyone is being challenged with housing affordability. So our government’s put forward a $7 billion plan for 10 years to build the kind of housing that people can afford.”

New supportive housing

The supportive housing project that officials gathered to celebrate on Thursday will be about more than putting a roof over people’s heads.

There will be 24/7 staff support, counselling and hot meals provided daily.

“This initiative from the provincial government, it is a real game changer for our community to help transition people from shelter and into housing,” said city councillor Kelly Fehr.

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Some of the rooms have space for couples, resident will be allowed to have pets and there are accessible rooms as well.

Residents will pay only $375 a month.

When it comes to housing marginalized people, there can be pushback from the neighbourhood, but after sitting in on Thursday’s news conference Betty-Lou Aarsen said she was no longer apprehensive about the supportive housing project going in next door.

“As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t mind living in there myself,” Aaren said.

“There is going to be counselling to get people back on their feet and that’s the main thing.”

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