Sat. May 25th, 2024

BC Housing is poised to reveal more details this week surrounding a major supportive housing initiative that will benefit Kelowna, B.C.’s, unhoused population.

Earlier this month, the government agency announced that Kelowna will become the first city in the Interior to use so-called tiny homes to shelter people who are experiencing homelessness.

While BC Housing promised 120 of the roughly 60-square-foot units, it did not reveal where in the city they would be located, other than to say they would be dispersed among three separate sites.

“We’re expecting to announce further details later this week, but we won’t be able to share any details until then,” said BC Housing spokesperson Darren Harbord.

The locations are among the details expected to be unveiled later this week.

The tiny home concept was pioneered in Duncan on Vancouver Island.

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“It has proven to be very successful,” said Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples. “At the last temporary use permit application, there were only three letters in opposition compared to hundreds the first time.”

Called ‘The Village’, Staples told Global News the tiny housing community, which is staffed 24-7, has done wonders for the residents, who call the 34 units home.

“People are becoming employed there. They’re stabilizing once they’re on site,” Staples said. “People are accessing health care for the first time, like really serious health care like hip replacements and things that you can’t get if you’re you know if you don’t have an address, and you don’t have a place to go after your surgery. People are accessing recovery programs and detox.”

But Staples said that the impact goes far beyond that,  adding The Village has benefited the neighbourhood as a whole.

“The calls for service from the RCMP went down 18 per cent in the first quarter after the site was open,” she said. “People are reporting feeling that their neighbourhood has calmed down…they feel more comfortable in their neighbourhood because that site was empty for a long time prior to that and there was a lot of activity at that site.”

Staples said that there are two key factors that have helped make the model successful, one being what’s called a community advisory committee.

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“It’s comprised of neighbours and businesses in the surrounding area and so they address issues, you know, immediately as they come up. They address them and work through them,” Staples said.

The second key component is a peers outreach program, which has residents of the tiny homes taking part in maintenance of the site.

“They go out every hour, and they do a sweep of, you know, of a radius around the site. And if there’s people you know, starting to form…sort of lingering and gathering, people will ask them to move along and they , the peers also go out to do garbage sweeps and cleanups,” said Staples.

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Staples added that the peers program also allows the tiny home residents to connect with other residents in the neighbourhood and build connections over time.

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“People can see that the people that are on the site are part of the community, so they’re forming relationships with people around the neighbourhood,” Staples said. “So it’s just giving it that time to build those relationships and that trust.”

At Kelowna’s outdoor sheltering site, people like Madelaine Husanik, who has been living in a tent for close to a year now, called the tiny homes a step up.

“It’s a roof over your head. It’s heat. You don’t have to worry about burning yourself when you sleep,” Husanik said. “It’s going to be world-changing. It’s going to be like winning the lottery.”

And while she said she won’t qualify because she is married and the homes can only accommodate one person, Husanik said news of the tiny homes are being welcomed by those sheltering outside.

“Everybody is interested,” Husanik said.

While there will no doubt be some angst expressed by surrounding neighbours once the three locations are announced for the tiny homes in Kelowna, Duncan’s mayor said the community there has become far more accepting.

“What we’ve learned here is that it’s actually become something beneficial that’s contributing positively to our community. And so I would say, you know, to try giving it that chance,” Staples said.

“The only thing that can I think that will increase people’s sense of well-being and acceptance of this is time.”

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