It’s another sign of the serious housing issues facing the Okanagan, a nonprofit in Vernon, B.C., which says it’s seeing more and more families with children who need help. to find accommodation.
In fact, Turning Points Collaborative Society says it currently has 12 families with 26 children living in hotel rooms.
“Two years ago we never saw a family in our homeless services and now it’s a regular occurrence, it’s not unique anymore,” said Randene Wejr, executive director of Turning Points Collaborative Society.
“Every week we see families unable to find rental accommodation. They may be families with two incomes. Affordability is no longer the only issue, it’s just one piece of what can contribute to homelessness. What we find is that the availability of housing stock is the main reason why families are homeless.
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Christine and her five children are part of these families.
Global News has agreed not to use her last name to protect her children.
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Since last October, the family has been living in a motel unit off Highway 97 that Turning Points Collaborative Society found for them.
If it hadn’t been for the motel unit, the mother of five says her family would probably be couch surfing as competition for affordable rentals is fierce.
Christine said the prices were “astronomical” and she encountered lines of people looking at the same rental she was interested in.
She continues to search for another place to live, but so far without success.
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With so many potential tenants, Christine said landlords choose tenants without children or pets.
“You find places that are pet-friendly, but they don’t want kids, and then you find places that are okay for your kids, but they don’t take pets. I feel like we are in a losing battle,” she said.
“I wish people were more empathetic…I’m immediately judged as soon as they hear, ‘Oh, single mom of five.'”
Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming said there is currently a significant imbalance between supply and demand for housing in the city.
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“I feel for the families,” Cumming said.
Cumming points out that new affordable rental properties are currently being built in Vernon, but admits that is unlikely to be enough to meet demand.
He said, among other initiatives, the city is working to attract more provincial assistance with affordable housing.
“We really encourage those who have properties to quickly bring development proposals to the city where they create accessible housing. We have doubled the staff in the current planning. Things are moving faster than they were in the past,” Cumming said.
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However, housing construction takes time and so far the changes have not been enough to help families like Christine’s.
She is now considering leaving the province, but that would mean uprooting her children.
“My children grew up here. It’s their roots. My eldest is going to be 17 next week and he’s been through kindergarten to grade 11 here plus the missed year we were in Saskatchewan so if we leave that would mean he’s leaving all his friends to graduation,” she said.
The lack of available housing in Vernon leaves some families with limited choices.
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