The Bright Mindz youth housing initiative, developed by the Canadian Mental Health Association - Kelowna in Kelowna, BC was recently recognized as an honourable mention for the third annual Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards.

This blog will discuss what this initiative is, why it was designed, how it fills the gaps in preventing youth homelessness, and much more. 

About the initiative 

The Bright Mindz youth housing initiative launched in early 2021. This innovative semi-independent housing program was designed for young people between the ages of 17-24 who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. It features 18 self-contained micro-suites as well as wraparound supports. Bright Mindz focuses on advancing the education and career goals of youth as well as developing life skills and natural supports that will transition them into adulthood and self-sufficiency.

What makes this initiative unique is that youth with lived experience were involved throughout its design and development. CMHA Kelowna included youth with lived experience in tasks ranging from working with the developer on the design of the building to shaping the care model. Youth were also instrumental in renaming the initiative from Benvoulin to Bright Mindz and setting up a resident-run Instagram page. 

Importantly, Bright Mindz uses a harm reduction lens in all of their programming.

“CMHA Kelowna is proud to operate the Bright Mindz program. We are providing youth with a home, and the supports and connections they need to prevent them from becoming the next generation of unhoused adults.” - Mike Gawliuk, CEO of CMHA Kelowna


Bright Mindz was developed based on an identified need for more youth-specific housing in Kelowna. 

“At a time when so many communities are urgently focused on addressing the needs of unhoused individuals, it is essential to also consider the necessity and impact of prevention and early intervention initiatives, in particular those focused on youth and young adults.”  - Mike Gawliuk, CEO of CMHA Kelowna

With this in mind, CMHA Kelowna approached a local developer, Shane Worman of Worman Homes, who was in the process of developing a 5-story micro suite building in a desirable location in Kelowna. Shane agreed to design one floor of the building to house young people in collaboration with youth and youth-serving organizations. 

In addition, Worman Homes and CMHA Kelowna developed a bus pass program to provide youth residents with a monthly bus pass to provide accessible transportation around Kelowna. All bus passes are paid for by Worman Homes. Worman Homes also allocates a portion of the rent from the building’s market units into a fund that Bright Mindz residents can access.

Community Impact of Initiative

Bright Mindz has had a significant impact. Since opening, 41 young people have resided at Bright Mindz and 19 have successfully transitioned from the program.

  • 12 moved into market housing
  • 5 moved into Supportive Housing due to higher support needs
  • 2 moved into CMHA Kelowna’s scattered site housing program
  • This equates to a 91% success rate. 

Of the 18 residents currently residing at Bright Mindz:

  • 88% are connected to health, mental health, or substance use supports
  • 82% report an improvement in life skills
  • 76% are improving their social networks
  • 82% are either employed or enrolled in an education program


Resident Story:

One story that illustrates the impact of this initiative on the community is about a resident of Bright Mindz. 

The resident in question had fallen behind on rent payments due to lack of employment and an inability to access income assistance. However, instead of evicting the young person for not paying rent, the staff members at Bright Mindz regularly reached out to offer them wrap-around support and help find a solution together. Upon request, the resident was referred to the Renew Program - an 8-week intensive skills-based program aimed at people who wish to return to work and gain skills in the construction and energy retrofit industry. Upon completion of the program, the participants were asked to assist with the retrofit of a local non-profit recovery house. This opportunity has led to employment in the construction industry for this young person, which in turn has given them the ability to pay rent. Furthermore, the staff at Bright Mindz also provided budgeting skills and helped the resident access community resources such as the local food bank to reduce living expenses.

About the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards

This year marked the third annual Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards Program. The Awards are presented by Canada Life and co-led by A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. They were created to celebrate the important work happening to prevent youth homelessness in Canada. 

Note: This blog post is part of a blog series highlighting the honourable mentions of the MtS Youth Homelessness Prevention Awards.