A concerted effort and strategic approach to address homelessness.
A concerted effort and strategic approach to address homelessness.
Identifying and reclassifying new and existing inventory to meet constituency demands.
A critical step in reforming our overall efforts to lift Canadians out of homelessness and poverty.
Keeping our communities safe and building trust between different people groups within the community.
Developing pertinent life and work-skills training, as well as job placement and future planning.
Involving local constituents to help maintain an acceptable social-safety net for underprivileged Canadians.
If elected as your Member of Parliament, the one goal above all others, would be to end homelessness in the Kelowna-Lake Country constituency. This is one close to my heart and that I take very seriously. Having grown-up through poverty, being associated with addiction-riddled people groups, knowing the loss of dignity living in a shelter, and having experienced episodic homelessness in my past, I bring a very candid perspective to the issues homeless and addicted Canadians are facing.
This a very complex issue, but at its core there are some very familiar terms that require immediate, and in some cases, drastic action. Matthew 25:40-45 underlines the core of my motivations, but let me be very clear: I am sympathetic to those that have fallen through our social safety net, and I am motivated by my faith to take risks and execute as brilliantly as possible to try and address this imminent crisis, but my attitude towards homelessness shouldn't be viewed as compassion, as much as stoic resolve. My goal isn’t to win friends but to be clear and decisive with real, tangible actions. The steps below are made with the intent of restoring dignity, hope and forward mobility.
This term is used time and again, but cutting straight to the chase, there needs to be inventory, and someone needs to pay for it. In Kelowna’s current market, the demand for rental inventory is such that even the micro-units that went up to help address the extreme rental prices, made little to no movement on rental rates. This doesn’t change the fact that inventory is required in order to fulfill a housing first commitment.
I have a very significant concern, and there’s evidence to support it’s a concern shared by a large portion of Kelowna-Lake Country constituents, that is if the primary goal is inventory, it may end up concentrated in the most affordable part of Kelowna-Lake Country: Rutland. Lots of cities throughout North America are very familiar with gentrification, we must not allow the acquisition of affordable inventory, force the concentration of poverty to one select neighbourhood, in this case, Rutland.
My approach to the inventory problem is to leverage market forces aggressively. We have out of control rental rates and property values. I’ve spoken with landowners throughout Kelowna-Lake Country, people that own single-family dwellings, to significant amounts of commercial space, and that feel helpless to the problems we face, but wish to help. A key part of spreading inventory throughout Kelowna-Lake Country and not having it concentrated in one geographic neighbourhood, is working cohesively with multiple parties and obstacles. If elected as your Member of Parliament, within the first week I will release a list of property owners that are willing to open up their inventory to create micro-suites, co-housing opportunities or multi-family dwellings.
After identifying the inventory, I intend to work very closely with the City of Kelowna on municipal bylaw and zoning issues that would otherwise restrict the use of said inventory. The reality is, we have lots of privately-owned property with owners willing to open their inventory for this exact purpose, but currently have no mechanism to do so. Being your federally elected representative, and having faith the officials at the City of Kelowna truly do wish to take serious and drastic action to eliminate homelessness, I would work tirelessly, and advocate passionately to allow the use of available inventory.
Once the inventory has become legally accessible, with the support, endorsement and approval of the property owners and the City of Kelowna, I would beseech the help of BC Housing to address any infrastructure (renovations and/or new construction) and support staffing concerns. My hope is that by working closely with the City of Kelowna and BC Housing, we would be able to implement simple mechanisms that would allow property owners to help support their community in a way that costs them as little effort as possible.
This doesn't eliminate the need for new and additional affordable housing units that BC Housing is planning on constructing. The goal is to ensure that the inventory is shared throughout Kelowna, and that affordable or supportive housing is placed in communities with the right support infrastructure in place. My hope is that through this exercise, not only will we highlight a large amount of existing inventory that can be utilized quickly, but also identify properties within Kelowna-Lake Country that may be better suited for proposed supportive housing units.
Inventory is only the first step, with just as crucial a task being the health and rehabilitation of people suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. Interior Health already provides a wide range of services, including short-term assessment & treatment, long-term programs for those with a serious and persistent mental illness, as well as substance use prevention and treatment services designed to support clients in their recovery. I fully intend to work tirelessly, to ensure we're adapting the available programs and services to the critical issues that underprivileged Canadians are facing. Whether that's revisiting the use and role of outpatient and support staff, or completely revisiting the way underprivileged Canadians interact with our medical services, I do not intend to leave any reasonable stone unturned or equitable conversation unheard.
A significant portion of my efforts would be directed at working closely with Interior Health, to identify potential obstacles in adapting their services to this newly-established inventory and housing program. However, almost as importantly would be my advocacy and at the national level. The Liberal government dedicated $1.25 billion to fight homelessness, as well as $3 billion into more and better home care services for all Canadians. I fully intend to work with my peers in the federal government, to ensure that Interior Health is able to access additional federal funding, to help scale their infrastructure to better address homelessness and community health.
Now it's not fair to group all people experiencing either chronic or episodic homelessness with substance use & abuse. Although the rates of substance use are disproportionately high among those experiencing homelessness, the issue cannot be explained by substance use alone. My aim is to ensure that there is a sufficient level of accessibile, professional care, for individuals with substance use issues that face insurmountable barriers to obtaining health care, including substance use treatment services and recovery supports. For those underprivileged Canadians that do not require any rehabilitive services, I would ensure we're improving access to healthcare, in the form of increased infrastructure for walk-in clinical needs as well as access to available family doctors.
There is an argument for advocating just one service (i.e. Healthcare) with the proposition that increased healthcare will address substance abuse and rehab issues, and that housing should be a 'reward' for compliance with behavioural modifications. This means adherence to strict rules, intolerance of alcohol, drugs and compliance with medical treatment, i.e. showing and demonstrating a 'willingness to change' to reach the goal of rehousing. The reason I support the housing first model, beyond studies that demonstrate housing first participants perform significantly better in recovery, is the fact that I truly believe that an effective social-safety net helps restore dignity, not just hand-outs. By working to restore dignity to those underprivileged, and providing mechanisms for them to dictate their terms for recovery, we will witness a far greater long-term result for society.
Studies support that there will be a significant reduction in small crimes and repeat criminal offenses by following a housing first strategy. One of the main components of opening up available inventory, is that property will not be owned by government entities. This has the potential to open up an entirely new wave of property crime that I intend to work closely with the RCMP to mitigate as effectively as possible. This involves a multi-faceted approach, which includes advocacy to increase the amount of RCMP Auxiliary Constables in the Kelowna-Lake Country constituency, as well as working with my peers in the federal government, to ensure that the Kelowna RCMP detachment is able to access additional federal funding that has been set aside for homelessness and community health. An increase in uniformed officers will allow regular property checks and more-frequent neighbourhood patrols to provide peace of mind to participating property owners and residents.
Now I want to be explicity clear: homelessness is not a police problem, and it's not so much a community problem, as it is an issue strongly influenced by the economic policies legislated at the federal level of government, by the effectiveness of our social-safety net, and by the strength of our local business community, to provide forward-mobility to Canadians. The policing aspect surrounding persons experiencing homelessness, should be focused on policing criminal activity and supporting mental health incidents. Without sufficient inventory, homelessness can easily elevate into property crime. Providing leniency, housing first options, and accessible healthcare, will be the most effective method to help ease the burden on policing homelessness, and switch the focus to preventing homelessness altogether.
Helping lift Canadians out of chronic and episodic homelessness by providing accessible inventory is a key component to fixing the problems our community faces, but it may not even be the most significant. Our middle-class faces some drastic challenges, with limited realistic job opportunities for unskilled workers, and little-to-no forward mobility for limited-skilled workers. My fourth, and what could be the most crucial step of the process, would be to work with federal, provincial and municipal programs to help identify gainful employment opportunities for Kelowna-Lake Country constituents that are faced with poor or no realistic opportunities for employment.
Forward-mobility will be providing pertinent life and work-skills training, as well as planning and job placement, through a network of interconnected agencies throughout the municipal, provincial and federal governments. I accept and completely understand that not everyone will accept, or are capable of gainful employment due to chronic mental-illness or other handicaps, in which case through my office as your federal representative in parliament, I will ensure they get the proper attention from the services and programs the federal government offers, to maintain a base-level livelihood that does not include bundling up in a sleeping bag in City Park downtown.
It’s no secret that many government officials wait until there’s a large communal movement before they’re able to shift funds around or address pertinent issues. If elected as your Member of Parliament, I will ensure that I will work tirelessly to continue to shed light on the issues that matter, as well as highlighting progress and obstacles faced in trying to stay above homelessness and hopelessness in Kelowna-Lake Country. This isn’t just for the benefit of the lowest-income and chronic or episodic homeless Canadians, this benefits small-businesses downtown, this benefits homeowners, the safety and security of our schools and children; this benefits Kelowna-Lake Constituency as a whole. If you live here, this should matter to you.