Upstream Kelowna recognized with Youth Homelessness Prevention Award

Upstream Kelowna was selected as the winner of the inaugural Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards in the program initiatives category.

The Awards are sponsored by Canada Life and co-led by A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory of Homelessness. In late 2021, they presented two awards – one in the collaboration category and one in the program initiatives category.

What is Upstream Kelowna?

Upstream Kelowna is a local adaptation of Upstream Canada, an early intervention strategy to prevent youth homelessness and school disengagement. It uses a universal screening tool to identify school-aged youth who may be at-risk before a crisis hits.

Upstream Kelowna assesses student risk factors through a Student Needs Assessment. This intervention identifies risk among students and provides supports for youth at-risk as well as their families and natural supports to reduce their risk of experiencing homelessness.

Youth Homelessness Prevention Takes a Village of Partnerships and Collaboration

BGC Okanagan believes that it takes a community in order for an initiative like Upstream Kelowna to be successful.

“Especially with programs that don’t necessarily come with initial funding, being able to harness the expertise and experience of your community partners is essential,”  said Jeremy Welder, BGC Okanagan CEO, in an interview with Homeless Hub.

BGC Okanagan attributes their success in getting the initiative started to the fact that they let their community partner organizations contribute in the areas where they had previous knowledge and expertise.

“If everyone feels that they have a stake in the project, and they can see the direct impact as we move forward … We know that we have a much better chance at survival and having a greater scale impact in the long term,” said Philippa Putlitz, BGC Okanagan’s Upstream Coordinator.

Community Impact of Upstream Kelowna on Youth Homelessness Prevention

Prior to BGC Okanagan administering the Student Needs Assessment at the first school, the partnerships formed to support the program already made an impact on a youth.

“We built strong enough relationships with that first school that they knew that they could reach out … to ask for support. They had a young person identify as currently homeless. Her and her mother were struggling, and they didn’t know what to do or what resources to reach out to and they realised that this was an immediate crisis that needed support. So, I asked for permission from the family to share the details of their case file [with] our partners and through that, I was able to pull in two or three case managers with experience related to their file and put them into a case management meeting with the family. We were able to immediately strategize a plan and they were housed within a week,” said Putlitz.

A second success for Upstream Kelowna was engaging with a youth who was part of a family that recently immigrated but was struggling to keep their children engaged in school Putlitz explained they focused on both the family as a unit and the child at-risk.

To help the family as a whole, she connected them with a local food bank which provided them with weekly food hampers and monthly clothing vouchers. She also assisted the family with getting extra subsidies to help them afford their rent. Upstream Kelowna also worked with community supporters to connect and fund the children’s extracurricular activities to support the building of resiliency and the financial stability of their home.

For more information on Upstream Kelowna:

BGC Okanagan launch preventative approach to youth homelessness in Kelowna

Okanagan Home Depot stores launch Orange Door Project fundraising campaign to combat youth homelessness

The Upstream Project comes to the Okanagan

Youth Programs in Kelowna – Upstream Kelowna


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