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Kelowna Comes Together to Ease Homelessness

This article is written entirely by a UBCO student as part of the school's Economics and the Media course. It has not been fact-checked by KelownaNow.

With a problem as complex as homelessness, well-meaning people can act inefficiently when disconnected from each other. But local groups like the Design Hub and the City Council have played an enormous role in bringing the community together to come up with solutions to community problems.

The city’s role is to collaborate and advocate. The responsibility for homelessness falls mostly on the provincial and federal governments, and so the city technically does not have a duty to take care of the issue. However, city council has taken steps to take care of the issue.

They hired a Social Issues Manager, Sue Wheeler, in the summer of 2016 to deliver a path forward for Kelowna City Council. Since the city will not act effectively if they take over tasks which other groups in the city already do, they advocate on behalf of these groups at the provincial and federal levels.

According to city councillor Tracy Gray, the city does not have a wide revenue base, and therefore it can’t easily implement the social programs that people would like to see, such as affordable housing and rent. However, there are a few things that they’ve done to make it better.

A problem with developing affordable housing is that the buildings don’t make as much money as a high rent apartment building. One thing city council has done is donate vacant land for development into affordable housing. Another thing they’ve done is give people 10 year tax exemptions and development grants. These make it all the more appealing to build affordable housing.

Design labs are a new way of bringing interested parties in Kelowna together in a unique way. They regularly have seminars on the different aspects of homelessness and create a space for people to collaborate. For example, they brought a group of people together who are interested in researching homelessness so that they can help come up with solutions.

People at design labs forms different groups all the time and come up with a whole bunch of solutions. Forming networks are so important because it’s through them that people can be directed to services which people need.

The great founder of economics Adam Smith was the first to realise that the division of labour creates more product in total that if people worked by themselves. 242 years later, this is still the case. Working in silos, any single group trying to combat homelessness does not do much to further their cause. However, by creating a network of people who specialize in different things, homelessness will become history much sooner.



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