World Homelessness Day marked with free screening of eye-opening documentary

A Kelowna man living on the streets says he much more than just a homeless person ahead of World Homelessness Day

Thursday marks World Homelessness Day.

In the Okanagan, the day will be marked with free screenings of a provocative and eye-opening film about life on the street.

Us and Them was produced by Victoria filmmaker Krista Loughton, who befriended four homeless people and followed their lives over the course of several years.

READ MORE: Federal funding announced to help reduce homelessness in Kelowna

The documentary aims to shatter misconceptions about why people end up on the streets, and reveals why it’s not so easy to simply “pull oneself up by the bootstraps” and move forward.

“A lot of people see this,” said Kyleen Myrah, chair of the board for the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society.

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“They see it on the streets, they read about it, they’ve never talked to somebody, they have never heard a story about somebody, they’ve never really thought about what might be the situation in their lives that led to that experience,” said Myrah.

“This is a chance to learn about four people’s stories … to hear about their journey, what led them into homelessness and how they are trying to get through homelessness to a better stage.”

A new homelessness simulator initiative hopes to give Kelowna residents a small taste of what it’s like living on the streets
A new homelessness simulator initiative hopes to give Kelowna residents a small taste of what it’s like living on the streets

The Journey Home Society is tackling the homelessness crisis in Kelowna with a five-year supportive housing strategy.

According to the Journey Home Society, the last homeless count was done in April 2018, when 286 people were counted living on the street.

That represents a 23 per cent jump from just two years ago.

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What’s perhaps more troubling is that last year’s count took place on one particular evening, meaning the real number is likely far greater than that.

“We know that’s an underestimation. We know there could be up to about four to 500 people on supportive housing lists,” Myrah told Global News.

So far, 130 supportive housing units have been built around Kelowna, and 150 more will be constructed and ready for occupancy next year.

READ MORE: Kelowna neighbours speak out against supportive housing project

“I can understand where the community feels that things aren’t moving quickly enough. People on the streets certainly feel that,” Myrah said.

But she added there are no overnight fixes to what she calls a complex situation.

“You can’t just take people and put them into a structure without any wrap-around supports, transitional help, without sort of knowing who you are putting into homes,” she said.

“You cannot do things overnight if you want people to have long term success.”

If you’d like to see a free screening of Us and Them, click here for more information on times and venues.

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United Way – Southern Interior BC – launches Unignorable campaign
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