Home­less outreach pro­gram ac­com­plishes mis­sion

Penticton Herald - - OKANAGAN-SIMILKAMEEN - By KEITH LACEY

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.

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