Most people wouldn’t consider paying traffic fines to be a fun activity but Penticton residents that paid theirs in the last few weeks of December had an opportunity to go away feeling good about it.
While you still had to cough up the cash, the City of Penticton’s bylaw department gave those paying their tickets after Dec. 12 the opportunity to direct their payment to 100 Homes Penticton instead of city coffers.
In so doing, they helped raise $720 for the organization, which is working to provide housing and support to 100 people by July 2018.
“It was not something we were expecting, so to have that extra, to be able to help some folks out directly, is really incredible,” said Tanya Behardien, chair of 100 Homes.
In December 2016, 100 Homes released the results of their first survey, showing the number of homeless in Penticton was larger than expected, with 128 people reporting themselves as homeless.
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There has been some success for 100 Homes and Behardien said they are achieving their goals.
“I think one of the things that has been a great outcome of the 100 Homes initiative is the collaboration between organizations. We are keeping track of the homeless in a much better way, collaborating on care and making sure less folks are slipping through the cracks,” she said. The local partnership includes the United Way, B.C. Housing, Lighthouse, Interior Health, Ooknakane Friendship Centre and many other Penticton groups.
“We are making progress. It will never be as fast as people hope it would be or as the need continues to grow, but we are absolutely making progress to the target,” said Behardien.
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Preliminary results from the 2017 100 Homes survey showed that the number of homeless had dropped to 76, but Behardien cautions that while the numbers are hopeful, it may not be the full picture.
“It is a moment in time that we are capturing,” she said, adding that some of the participants in the last 100 Homes meeting also questioned the results.
“There were a lot of people sitting around the table who did feel there were groups we weren’t able to get to. People are moving farther our of the central spaces where we travelled,” she said, adding that the work to build relationships didn’t stop with the count.
“People could be right that there are folks that we missed. We have a sense there are still people we need to get to know by name and find where they are,” said Behardien. “We needed to account for them, and know that we still needed to be able to provide for them.”
Behardien said work the group is doing to build a centralized, collaborative approach between helping organizations is a critical step.
“I think that will help us be more co-ordinated and I think that will help with accessibility,” said Behardien. “Housing is a basic need and when people aren’t well housed, they can’t take care of the rest of their lives.
“The focus on continuing to have enough resources to meet people where they are at and meet their needs for housing first is really important.”
Compassion, on the part of the larger community, is also critical.
“I hear sometimes that people think folks are making poor choices. One of the things I am reminded of how fine the line is on which side of the equation you get to be on,” said Behardien. “Compassion is so important, and understanding and caring, not judging people for where they are at this moment in time.
“When I have taken time to just listen to stories of folks are who are homeless, a lot of times their situations are not that different from many of us. They don’t have the support of family or the kind of things that people might be blessed with.”