Social agencies connect with homeless during Homelessness Action Week

By Jill Sperling
October 10, 2017 - 4:58pm Updated: October 10, 2017 - 6:30pm

KAMLOOPS — Oct 8-14 is Homelessness Action Week, a time when communities across B.C. work to bring awareness to the issue of homelessness, and what services are available.

"It's a time of year to bring awareness to homelessness and the topics associated with it, poverty, mental health, addictions and recovery, and then the services that are available to help out with those issues as well," Natalie Serl, project manager of housing and homelessness for the City of Kamloops, said.

Thirty-seven service providers will attend Project Connect at Spirit Square Wednesday, where they will be able to connect to those who need their supports most.

"It's a way to connect with people in a very casual and informal way that isn't intimidating, as it can be sometimes when you're trying to find an opportunity for improvement for your life," Serl said. "So, it isn't just for our homeless population, it's an all community support event that we offer."

The Kamloops division of the Canadian Mental Health Association works closely with the city's homeless population, and is one of the agencies participating in Project Connect. 

"We work in this every single day as the operators of Emerald Centre," said Executive Director Christa Mullaly, "and I think that by really responding to and encouraging our clients and the residents that are staying with us to connect into services to be able to be better supported in community is ongoing work that we do everyday."

Mullaly says Kamloops is in great need of homes for the homeless, but she's optimistic they are on the way. 

"I think a lot of the excellent groundwork has been laid in Kamloops for us to receive some of the provincial funding that's coming down around housing, around other supports for the homeless population," Mullaly said, "but it's kind of that hurry up and wait syndrome as well. We really need to get some units into our community and I am absolutely confident that we've got some stuff coming down the pipe, which is excellent." 

That would be in addition to another housing initiative already underway for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis youth who have aged out of care. 

"About 60 per cent of homeless people had associations with child welfare services at some point in their life, and I think in Kamloops the statistic is actually 72 per cent," said Natika Bock, Indigenous Youth Housing Manager with Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Service. "So, we're higher than the national average. This housing project will help youth aging out of care so that they're supported in housing, and have a continuum of supportive up until they're ready to live on their own." 

Many agencies have chosen to extend their own Homelessness Action Week activities into next week. 

The annual homeless count that is normally done over Homelessness Action Week will take place next spring as part of a coordinated count with other communities across Canada.

World Mental Health Day sheds light on mental illness