On July 9 Urban Matters, together with stakeholders from Kelowna’s Journey Home Strategy and members of the Kelowna Community Action Team, proudly co-hosted the inaugural graduation event for the first cohort of PEOPLE (Paid Employment for People with Lived Experiences) Employment Services participants.
The event celebrated graduates from one of the first programs of its kind in Canada: one that offers skills training and meaningful, paid work opportunities for people with lived experiences of homelessness and/or drug use. The first cohort of 30 participants completed learning modules related to communications, conflict resolution, Indigenous histories, financial literacy and harm reduction practices. The participants are now moving into paid employment opportunities that are supporting inclusion, including community beautification, community ambassador roles, communications, and more.
“The Journey Home Strategy to address homelessness in Kelowna includes working with our citizens with lived experience of homelessness and/or substance use to develop their skills and talents, “says Gaelene Askeland, Executive Director of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society. “PEOPLE is an innovative, creative way to build up, encourage and support people into paid work. We are thrilled to be a part of it and so proud of the 30 graduates of this first cohort.”
Urban Matters’ team member, Erin Welk, explains the programs connection to building a more inclusive society, “through PEOPLE, we are breaking down barriers that have traditionally excluded some members of our community from feeling like they can contribute. By doing so, we are moving together toward a bold vision of inclusivity. Our first cohort of graduates is an incredible group of people with a diverse set of expertise. Our community will be stronger because of the wisdom, skills, and experience they’re bringing to various employment opportunities.”
“This is such a unique program,” says one PEOPLE participant. “I’m learning to recognize skills I didn’t even know I had. My time and my experience are valued, and I’m being paid to share them. I feel like I’m being given the opportunity to contribute.”
About PEOPLE (Paid Employment Opportunities for People with Lived Experiences)
PEOPLE was initially outlined in the Journey Home Strategy and has been brought to life through a collective community effort. The initiative from the Kelowna Community Action Team (CAT) and the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness was launched by Urban Matters CCC with funding from Interior Health and the City of Kelowna. At its core, PEOPLE is a social enterprise that establishes contracts with employers and hires people with lived experience to fulfill those contracts.
PEOPLE Employment Services imagines a future where people with lived experience have opportunities to meaningfully contribute to increased inclusion in both community and business settings. PEOPLE is a social enterprise that designs learning modules that meet people with lived experience in homelessness and/or drug use where they are at on their journey into employment. For each learning cohort, PEOPLE establishes contracts with employers and hires individuals with lived experience to fulfill those contracts.
About the Journey Home Strategy
The Journey Home Strategy is Kelowna’s five-year plan to address homelessness with a focus on ensuring everyone has a place to call home. The goal is to ensure a coordinated and easy-to-access system of care for those in Kelowna who have lost or are at risk of losing their home. Over the course of the five-year strategy 2,100 people are expected to be assisted. The Journey Home Strategy includes a Community Report, designed to provide an overview of how the strategy was developed, as well as a Technical Report that lays out Kelowna’s unique challenges and strengths which have guided the roadmap to implement the plan. The complete strategy is available on the Journey Home webpage at www.journeyhome.ca