Homeless outreach program accomplishes mission
More than 130 formerly homeless people in Penticton now have roofs over their heads thanks to 100 Homes Penticton, council heard this week.
Formed in 2016, 100 Homes Penticton is a coalition of community organizations and service providers, including OneSky Community Resources and the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society. Other partners include the Penticton RCMP and the Downtown Penticton Association.
“The group we have put together to resolve these issues is well recognized and well known by others,” said Tanya Berhardian, executive director of OneSky Community Resources and a founder of 100 Homes Penticton.
The goal since inception in 2016 was to provide housing to 100 homeless people by July of this year, she said.
The group has engaged in annual counts to determine the number of homeless in Penticton and try and meet with as many homeless as possible to determine their needs and work with them to help turn their lives around, she said.
Being able to meet and surpass the goal of providing housing for 133 as of July is a great source of pride for all the partners in the 100 Homes Penticton project, she said.
The program also includes a program to attract private landlords to rent units to clients, as well as a RentSmart education program.
Linda Sankey, executive director of the regional brain injury society, said the RentSmart program is exciting as it encourages private landlords to accept those who have endured chronic homelessness.
The RentSmart program started in Victoria and includes providing a “classroom-style education” to help clients understand their rights and responsibilities as tenants.
They get a certificate after passing course requirements, which they can use to prove to landlords they have passed the course "where they understand how to be a good tenant.”
Landlords can call to verify whether someone applying to become a tenant has passed the course.
As of last week, 19 people have passed the RentSmart certification process, said Sankey.
“This program also offers us the opportunity to educate landlords about what RentSmart means for them,” she said.
Those passing the course who have applied to live in BC Housing projects will benefit from earning this certification, she said.
Meanwhile, a temporary winter shelter that opened a few weeks ago in the Sunset Inn — formerly the Super 8 Hotel in Penticton — is currently housing 20 people and the project also came about as a result of collaborative efforts by community partners, she said.
Berhardien said council can help by continuing to approve more new and renovated housing units and supporting zoning bylaws that encourage supportive housing and getting homeless people off the streets.
Other communities have hired social development managers and she hopes Penticton does the same soon.
Mayor John Vassilaki said the city has worked hard to improve housing stock for the homeless over the past few years and is committed to doing more.