True face of homelessness isn’t what’s seen on the streets.

A mayoral candidate in the upcoming October municipal election wants BC Housing to conduct an independent review of shelters and facilities in Kamloops.

BC Housing apartment operated by CSI Kamloops for low to moderate income tenants

The candidate, Reid Hamer-Jackson, said in a press release: “Due to the lack of action, with respect to these facilities, problems have grown throughout our community.” While he is focusing on two projects, Canadian Mental Health Association and ASK Wellness Society, he lumps these with others funded by BC Housing.

That’s a mistake. Many of the shelters funded by BC Housing operate without any problems whatsoever.

I sympathize with businesses who are victims of senseless crime. Windows of local businesses are shattered and goods stolen. But I object to the majority of Kamloops’ homeless being blamed by the actions of a few.

I don’t think Hamer-Jackson understands the scope of projects funded by BC Housing.

Does he mean the 31 low-to-moderate income units operated by the Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family & Community Services Society 975 Singh Street?

Or the 58 units operated by Tk’emlups te Secwepemc (TteS)/YneT Society on Kamloopa Way & Chilcotin Rd?

I mention those two because the face of Kamloops’ homeless is not what you see on West Victoria Street. In a homeless count done in Kamloops by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C. last year, almost one-half of the homeless surveyed self-identified as Indigenous.

Does he mean the 112 low-to-moderate income rental units on 6th and Victoria operated by Centre for Seniors Information BC Interior Society, of which I’m president? I can assure Mr. Hamer-Jackson that every one of our tenants has been thoroughly vetted. Many of them were previously homeless.

Again, the true face of Kamloops homeless is not what you see on the streets. Of the 206 surveyed by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C., two-thirds of them were not on the street but sheltered. They were staying in shelters, couch-surfing, and depending on the kindness of friends. True, you might see them in the day but they are indistinguishable from regular Kamloopsians.

The same survey of Kamloops’ homeless also reveals troubling fact: one-third indicated that as a child or youth, they were in foster care, in a youth group home or on an Independent Living Agreement. Many have “aged out” of care facilities and with few resources, are now on the street.

Ten percent of Kamloops’ homeless are under the age of 25, some of them vulnerable women open to sexual assault.

One of those youths was Katherine McParland, former Executive Director for A Way Home, who tragically died last year.

Katherine spent much of her teenage years in foster homes and, once she aged out of the system at 19, was homeless in Kamloops for a period of time.

As an influential member of our community, she told of how she would sleep outdoors and couch surf at the homes of friends. McParland would describe foster care as the “superhighway to homelessness.”

The face of Kamloops homeless is as varied as the citizens who live here. A few of the homeless cause a lot of damage.

The solution to homelessness is homes, not stalling by unnecessary studies.