It’s another sign of the deep housing challenges facing the Okanagan, a Vernon, B.C. non-profit society says it’s seeing more families with kids in need of help finding a place to live.
In fact, Turning Points Collaborative Society says it currently has 12 families with 26 kids living in hotel rooms.
“Two years ago we would never see a family in our homeless services and now that is a regular occurrence, it’s not unique anymore,” said Randene Wejr, the executive director of Turning Points Collaborative Society.
“We see families every single week that are unable to find places to rent. They can be two-income families. Affordability isn’t the single issue any more it is just a piece around what may help lead to homelessness. What we are finding is that housing stock availability is the number one reason that families are homeless.”
Christine and her five children are one of those families.
Global News has agreed not to use her last name to protect her kids.
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Since last October, the family has been living in a unit at a motel next to Highway 97 that Turning Points Collaborative Society found for them.
If it wasn’t for the motel unit, the mother of five says her family would likely be couch surfing, because competition for affordable rentals is stiff.
Christine said prices are “astronomical,” and she’s encountered line-ups of people looking at the same rental she is interested in.
She continues to look for another place to live, but so far without success.
With so many prospective tenants, Christine said landlords are choosing tenants without kids and pets.
“You find places that will take pets but then they don’t want kids, and then you find places that are okay with your kids but then they don’t take the pets. I feel like we are in a losing battle,” she said.
“I wish that people would be more empathetic…I get judged right away as soon as they hear, ‘Oh, single mom of five.'”
Vernon’s mayor Victor Cumming said there is a significant imbalance between supply and demand for housing in the city right now.
“I feel for the families,” Cumming said.
Cumming points out that new affordable rental buildings are under construction in Vernon right now, but admits that likely won’t be enough to meet demand.
He said, among other initiatives, the city is working to attract more provincial help with affordable housing.
“We are really encouraging those who have properties to quickly bring development proposals to the city where they are creating attainable housing. We’ve doubled the staff in current planning. Things are moving quicker than they were in the past,” said Cumming.
However, housing takes time to build and, so far, the changes have not been enough to help families like Christine’s
She’s now considering moving out of the province, but that would mean uprooting her kids.
“My kids grew up here. This is their roots. My oldest is going to be 17 next week and he has gone from kindergarten to grade 11 here, besides the year missed that we were in Saskatchewan, so us leaving that would be mean he leaves all his friends for grad,” she said.
The lack of available housing in Vernon is leaving some families with limited choices.