Mayor Duncan shares the impact of tiny homes for the unhoused before the Kelowna-Okanagan initiative
The Province of British Columbia is set to reveal more details this week about a major supportive housing initiative that will benefit unhoused residents of Kelowna, British Columbia.
Earlier this month, the government agency announced that Kelowna would become the first city in the Interior to use so-called tiny homes to house people experiencing homelessness.
While BC Housing promised 120 of the approximately 60-square-foot units, it did not reveal where they would be located in the city, other than to say they would be spread across three separate sites.
“We expect to announce more details later this week, but we will not be able to share any details until then,” said Darren Harbord, a spokesperson for British Columbia Housing.
Locations are among the details expected to be revealed later this week.
The tiny house concept was pioneered in Duncan on Vancouver Island.
“The project has proven to be very successful,” said Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples. “In the last application for the temporary use permit, there were only three letters of opposition compared to hundreds the first time.”
The small residential community called “The Village,” which is open 24/7, has done wonders for the residents, who call the 34 units home, Staples told Global News.
“People are getting jobs there. They settle in once they get to the site,” Staples said. “People are getting health care for the first time, like really serious health care like hip replacements and things you can’t get if you know if you don’t have an address And you have nowhere to go after surgery. People are accessing recovery and detox programs.
But the impact goes far beyond that, Staples said, adding that the village has benefited the neighborhood as a whole.
“Requests for service from the RCMP decreased by 18 per cent in the first quarter after the site opened,” she said. “People report feeling like their neighborhood has calmed down… They feel more comfortable in their neighborhood because that location was empty for a long time before that and there was a lot of activity in that location.”
Staples said there were two main factors that helped make the model successful, one of which was the so-called community advisory committee.
“It’s made up of neighbors and businesses in the surrounding area, so they address issues, you know, as they come up. They address them and work through them,” Staples said.
The second major component is a peer outreach program, in which tiny house residents participate in site maintenance.
“They come out every hour, and they sweep a radius around the site. And if there are people you know, they start to form… kind of slow down and congregate, people will ask them to move, and their peers also come out to do litter sweeps and clean up,” Staples said.
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The peer program also allows tiny house residents to connect with other residents in the neighborhood and build connections over time, Staples added.
“People can see that the people on site are part of the community, so they form relationships with people throughout the neighborhood,” Staples said. “So it’s just about giving her time to build those relationships and that trust.”
At the outdoor shelter site in Kelowna, people like Madeleine Hosanek, who has been living in a tent for nearly a year, called the tiny homes a step forward.
“It’s a roof over your head. It’s the heat. You don’t have to worry about burning yourself while you’re sleeping,” Hosanek said. “It’s going to be world-changing. “It would be like winning the lottery.”
While she said she wouldn’t qualify because she’s married and the homes only fit one person, Hosanek said the news of tiny homes is welcomed by those sheltering outside.
“Everyone is interested,” Hosanek said.
While there will undoubtedly be some concern expressed by surrounding neighbors once the three Kelowna tiny house locations are announced, Mayor Duncan said the community there has become much more accepting.
“What we’ve learned here is that it actually becomes something useful that contributes positively to our community. So I would say, you know, let’s try to give it that opportunity,” Staples said.
“The one thing that I think will increase people’s sense of well-being and acceptance is time.”
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(tags for translation) British Columbia Housing