Lived experience with homelessness Kelowna resident recieves a certificate from Erin Welk and a pin from Coun. Loyal Wooldridge on July 9 at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. (David Venn - Capital News)

Okanagan homeless graduate into the workforce

“I thought, ‘No. I can still work,’” said graduate.

Thirty people who formerly lived on the street will be employed through a local social enterprise designed to transition people who have experienced homelessness into the workforce.

The Rotary Centre for the Arts played host to PEOPLE Employment Services on the evening of July 7 in celebration of the 30 workers who will be contracted to work for the City of Kelowna, among other partnering businesses and organizations.

“We are working with individuals that have faced systemic barriers but are incredibly personally resilient,” said Erin Welk, PEOPLE director. “Starting a program where we can demonstrate that these individuals are really important and powerful members of the community is something that we are really passionate about doing.”

READ MORE: Kelowna residents who have lived through homelessness share their insight with COJHS

“I’ve always had that working drive, but it comes to a point in one’s life where you can only take so much s—t before you lose it,” said Harold Smoke, one of the members on the PEOPLE cohort and the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH). “Once I started learning what (PEOPLE) was about … it really just changed my whole perspective on everything, really.”

PEOPLE Employment Services started in January 2019 as a program under the umbrella of Urban Matters, a social enterprise that “helps communities deliver tangible solutions so that people can live happier and healthier lives,” according to their website. Early next year, Welk said PEOPLE will be its own organization in the new year.

READ MORE: Ex-homeless Rutland man says supportive housing too close to schools

“The idea came from (LECOH),” said Welk in regards to PEOPLE’s pragmatic solution-based program and relationship with Journey Home.

The students of PEOPLE go through training modules that teach them about culture, social strategies and financial literacy to prepare them for the workplace.

Once they finish the modules and graduate the program, PEOPLE provides a no-risk service to their contractors by supplying support systems to help the workers succeed at their new job and also by taking on the financial risks by managing income and contracts. No business is hiring graduates directly.

“(We have deliverables) in our contract,” said Welk. “(Partner businesses are) paying us to do that and we are paying the individuals for their work.”

READ MORE: Eli to be remembered by bridging the gap between Kelowna’s communities

“I realized that I was scared to get back into the workforce … this particular program kind of gave me that little confidence boost; the people are so supportive,” said Wanda MacKinnon, Kelowna resident and PEOPLE graduate. “I thought, ‘No. I can still work.’”

Welk said PEOPLE is in the process of finalizing details for the 2020 cohort and will aim to recruit 20 to 25 individuals with lived experience in homelessness.

To learn more, visit their website at www.peopleemploymentservices.com.


@davidvenn_
David.venn@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: Showers to start weekend, sun returning soon

Environment Canada forecasts rain on Saturday and the heat returning next week

UPDATE: Penticton resident’s dog found safe

Nicholas Bozak thanks the public for finding his 17 month old mastiff chow

Survivorship Dragon Boat Team wins in Vernon

Team takes top spot in A division at festival

RDOS contributes funds to arts centre workshop

South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre Society wants input into proposed facility

Youth Wellness Gathering aims to empower, educate South Okanagan youth

The event is hosted by a non-profit located on the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) reserve July 22 & 23

July showers wash out half of the Okanagan’s cherry crop

Cherry growers say this is the worst season they’ve seen in decades

Okanagan school district monitoring McCurdy supportive housing plan debate

Top priority for board of education is to maintain safety integrity of local schools

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Okanagan woman to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for homeless youth

Victoria Schermel’s climb will raise funds for youth homelessness initiative, The Upstream Project.

Kelowna car thief’s sentencing delayed

Stanley Nickason pled guilty car theft charges in B.C. Supreme Court

Most Read