A woman is kicked out of City Park for constructing an illegal shelter on Aug. 6, something which people who experience homelessness say is unfounded and discriminatory. (David Venn - Capital News)

Adopting Homeless Charter of Rights a possibility: Okanagan mayor and MLA

The charter has been noted to enhance human rights of the marginalized community

(This article is part five of a five-part series on the differing perspectives of the homeless versus mainstream culture and how that stigma associated with being homeless directly affects their relationships between authorities, public space and themselves.)

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said adopting or supporting the adaptation of a Homeless Charter of Rights is a possibility for both the city and B.C.

The document, which was created by a Calgary-based homeless organization, outlines the human rights of people who experience homelessness, such as their right to access space, facilities, social services, health care and to be treated with respect and dignity.

“From what I know about the Homeless Charter of Rights, it’s a social movement designed to make everyone agree that people experiencing homelessness have the right to access health care, housing and justice. I think we can all accept that—I think that’s what we’re all trying to do,” Basran said.

Letnick said he supports the rights of everyone, including people who experience homelessness.

He did not specify whether or not he supported the charter, but he said: “I will discuss its contents with my colleagues in Victoria when we return this fall.”

Sherry Landry, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society outreach co-ordinator, said she would like to see something similar adopted or recognized provincewide.

READ MORE: Part one: From homeless to housed

While the City of Calgary was addressing its own homelessness issue, an institution, similar to Central Okanagan Journey Home Society (COJHS), ratified the document.

The charter is a document brought to life by the Calgary Homeless Foundation (CHF), the CHF Client Action Committee (CAC) and the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

The City of Calgary has not adopted the charter, CAC member Nigel Kirk said, but the committee is currently working to make that happen.

READ MORE: Part two: We don’t deserve to sit beside ‘normal people’: Kelowna homeless

READ MORE: Part three: Kelowna homeless fight for freedom of possessions, clash with bylaw

The document has, however, influenced many of the policies and initiatives taken by the CHF, which has—directly or indirectly—shown an increase in quality of life for people who experience homelessness in Calgary, Kirk stated.

For example, the James Short park, on top of a parkade in downtown Calgary, is known as a tolerant zone for people who experience homelessness.

This has been a milestone for people who experience homelessness, Kirk said.

“There have been more movements to add some more public spaces—allowing homeless people to hangout there during the day without being harassed by police officers,” Kirk said, noting that Calgary is not perfect and that they still have quite a ways to go.

“It’s happening less and less frequently.”

Reciprocation started with the media and spiralled from there.

Once the public saw how people who experience homelessness were being treated, initiatives such as the homeless charter took off, with shelters and storefronts posting outside their buildings, Kirk said.

READ MORE: Part four: Kelowna homeless claim they are assaulted ‘regularly’ by police, bystanders

“A lot of it has just been public awareness,” Kirk said. “A lot of police officers are under a lot more scrutiny so they had to step back a little bit when it comes to harassing members of the homeless community.”

The downfall, Kirk said, is there’s no way to enforce the charter—it is a document not enforced by legislation but rather by the goodwill and empathy of others.

John Graham, UBC Okanagan’s school of social work director and COJHS member, said there must be social cohesion throughout Kelowna to solve this widespread and varying issues associated with homelessness.

“We need to ensure that public dialogue remains open and full so that the perspectives of all parties (are heard),” he said.

“We’ve got some real potential to do some real good here.”

Basran expressed similar virtues in finding a community solution.

“We know that in order to truly address homelessness, the support of the community as a whole will be needed to be fully effective,” Basran said.

“Everyone can play a role. As our lived and living experience people have told us, stigma and discrimination are some of the greatest barriers they face in our community every day.

“Simply saying hello can make the greatest difference for those struggling to find their place in our community.”



David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter

Just Posted

Vees take 6-3 win against rival Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Vees’ Jay O’Brien and Lukas Sillinger both had multiple-point games.

Interior Health issues warning about opioid-laced stimulants causing recent overdoses

Interior Health is urging residents using or considering using drugs to reconsider… Continue reading

Give back this holiday season with SOWINS Share the Spirit campaign

Help women and children fleeing or living with abuse have a happy holiday

VQA Info Centre hosting open house on Saturday in Penticton

Sample local wines, try delicious food and enjoy live music from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Penticton car dealership helps feed the need this season

Parker’s Chrysler is donating to the Salvation Army Food Bank

VIDEO: B.C. couple creates three-storey ‘doggie mansion’ for their five pups

Group of seven, who Kylee Ryan has dubbed as the ‘wandering paws,’ have a neat setup in Jade City

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

Okanagan philanthropists treated to moving speech on National Philanthropy Day

David Roche shared his message to the Association of Fundraising Professionals and non-profits

Pedestrian struck and killed in Kamloops accident

Kamloops RCMP responded to the incident at 5:30 p.m. Friday night

Most Read