Change in the Time of COVID: Determining How a Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness Adapts Their Team Development Model


A common issue facing organizations today is how to create effective teams that are able to manage change and remain productive during times of instability. Under normal circumstances this is a challenging task, but the level of difficulty increases when the members of the team are demographically diverse and have lived experiences of homelessness, past addictions, and trauma. If this weren’t challenging enough, add the complexity of building a new team during a global pandemic that restricts movement, isolates already marginalized team members, and effectively severs key forms of communication. This is the situation facing the members of the Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH) led by Gerard Joyal. In this undisguised case based on actual events, Joyal describes how in the course of two days the LECoH team moved from holding interviews for new members and feeling excited about the prospects of having additional people join the group to continue their vital work, to a scenario where it was unclear how the group would continue.

The case details how the community of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada strove to embed the voice of lived experience individuals into every aspect of their plan to functionally end homelessness. The case discusses how the LECoH team was formed and how the structure evolved and developed, and identifies the key elements that led to successes for the group. It discusses how group norms were created and maintained and how they intended to continue to build those norms with the future members. Now Joyal and the remaining LECoH members must devise a way to have the voice of lived experience continue to drive the system change forward during a time when those experiencing homelessness or those individuals on the cusp of homelessness are most at risk. Their team has never been more necessary, nor more vulnerable.

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Exhibit 1: Glossary of Terms

Backbone organization is the coordinating body that leads a collective impact program. It guides vision and strategy, connects participants, helps align activities and shared measurement practices, builds public will, and secures funding towards a common goal.

Central Okanagan Journey Home Society is a non-profit organization responsible for implementing Kelowna’s Journey Home Strategy.

Collective impact is based on the idea a single person or group cannot solve the world’s most challenging problems. Collective impact happens when organizations align efforts, and use a common agenda and success measures to solve a social problem such as homelessness.

Community Contribution Company, or C3, is a hybrid social enterprise structure in Canada, available in British Columbia since 2013.

Functional zero end to homelessness means that communities have a systemic response in place that ensures homelessness is prevented whenever possible or is otherwise a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.

Graphic illustrator is someone that provides a visual representation of the concepts through drawings.

Homelessness is the state of being without stable, safe, permanent, and appropriate housing, or the resources to get it.

Homeless-serving system is a community-wide, coordinated method of delivering services designed to provide support and housing stability quickly and efficiently.

Integrated community court focuses primarily on offenders struggling with addiction, living with mental health issues, or experiencing homelessness. Through a more restorative approach to justice, individuals are connected with the supports they need in the community, in order to address the root causes of their criminal behavior.

Journey Home Strategy is Kelowna’s five-year plan to address homelessness with a focus on ensuring everyone has a place to call home.

Journey Home Task Force was a group of community members appointed by Kelowna City Council who were working to move the Journey Home strategy to reality. The task force’s goal was to lead the development of the long-term Journey Home strategy to ensure people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna would have a clear path to the support they needed, when they needed it.

LGBTQ2S+ is an evolving initialism that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit, and other gender/sexual identities.

Lived experience is knowledge gained through first-hand involvement in everyday events and experiences such as homelessness.

Lived Experience Circle (LEC) was a temporary group made up of those who were currently homeless or had previously experienced homelessness. LEC’s role was to provide input into the development of the Journey Home strategy to ensure the “lived experience voice” was embedded in the plan.

Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness (LECoH) is a group made up of those who are homeless or have experienced homelessness. LECoH plays a key role in the implementation of the Journey Home Strategy, and is an important, and integrated, part of Central Okanagan Journey Home Society’s ongoing efforts to end homelessness.

Lived Experience convener is a paid part-time position whose role is to coordinate LECoH’s efforts and oversee the lived experience members. The convener reports to the executive director of the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society.

Peer navigators are individuals with lived experience—peers—who provide the first point of contact to others in the community who are seeking help. 

Peer support is a process that allows people who have experienced something, such as homelessness, to support others by drawing on their own experience.

Point-in-time (PiT) count: The purpose of a PiT count is to enumerate individuals in a community who are, at a given time, sleeping “rough” (for example, on the streets, in parks), providing a snapshot of homelessness in a particular community. The PiT count also includes a survey to provide communities, like Kelowna, with information on the characteristics of their homeless population.

Sleeping rough refers to sleeping outside, or other places not fit for human accommodation.

Supportive housing is an approach that combines rental or housing assistance with 24-7, on-site supports for those with high needs related to physical or mental health, and substance use.

Youth Advocates for Housing is a group made up of young people who are homeless or have experienced homelessness. Youth Advocates for Housing played a key role in development of the Journey Home strategy, and is an important, and integrated, part of Central Okanagan Journey Home Society’s ongoing efforts to end homelessness.

Source: Developed by Central Okanagan Journey Home Society, summer 2020, from internal files and public documents

Exhibit 2: LECoH Terms of Reference (TOR)

A Voice for the Homeless or those at risk of Homelessness; creating openness with understanding, releasing fear and judgement and initiating change.

The Members of the Lived Experience Circle acknowledge that the land we gather on is on the unceded territory of the Okanagan, Sylix People.

In memoriam and perpetuity: Diane Larsback, Wanda MacKinnon, Ricky-Lee Karaszi

1) Purpose

The Circle was formed as a working advisory group and compliment to the COJHS (Central Okanagan Journey Home Society).

The objectives of the LECoH are to:

Continue to Advocate for the desired outcomes of the Journey Home Lived Experience consultation process:

  • Peer Support
  • Support Public Awareness to reduce Stigma
  • Informing the organizational development of the homeless serving system.
    • Act as a liaison between the greater Lived experience community and the COJHS.
    • Support the COJHS as needed on any Public awareness or advocacy campaign.
    • Remain a resource for Agencies who are seeking the Lived Experience perspective.

Ultimately, the Intent is to continue to carry the voice of the homeless or those at risk of homelessness into the Strategic plan and beyond.

2) Scope

The scope will consist of:

  • Act as an advisory group representing the lived and living experience perspective to the COJHS, agencies or organizations.
  • Advocate for and contribute to other initiatives that address the needs for those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
  • Encourage and facilitate communication between the homeless service sector, the public and the lived experience community.
3) Authority

The authority of the LECOH (Lived Experience Circle on Homelessness) is limited to the decisions required to facilitate its outlined objectives, and reports to COJHS.

4) Membership

LECoH membership will include individuals on the decision making body (the Circle) and Alumni.

LECoH also recognizes the voice and Guidance of deceased members in Memoriam.

There will be up to eleven (11) seats on the circle filled by the selection process to create a diverse representation of the lived and living experience population and a variety of skill sets to support the work of the group.

Selection will take place by open call for applicants, review of applications and group /panel interviews by outgoing members of the LECoH.

  • Terms for service at the circle will be for 2 yrs, creating a staggered selection process by which up to 50% of the seats will turn over annually.
  • Selections will take place annually in the month of March and Terms will run from April1st to April1st
  • Members must have the ability to receive communication either electronically or by telephone/ text on a reasonable basis
  • There will be three total administration positions to carry out the basic “house keeping” of the committee. Positions for administration will rotate every three months with each member encouraged to serve in an administration capacity.
    • Co facilitators (2) * one of the two will be an alumni Mentor
      • Set and distribute the Agenda
      • Maintain the flow and decorum of the meetings
      • Coordinating with Guests.
      • Coordinating with the COJHS support staff
    • Secretary/Recorder (1)
      • Recorder Role-to record the notes accurately and circulate. To keep an approved set of minutes
  • Vacant seats
    • filled by applicants vetted through the matrix and interviewed as per selection process.
    • Or an Alumni can fill the seat by unanimous consent.
  • Liaison(s) or representatives of the LECoH are selected by consensus from the membership (including Alumni) as needed to represent the LECoH, and trusted to act on behalf of the best interests of LECoH as a whole.
  • Other individuals providing expertise or experience can be brought in to serve on the Ad-Hoc or subcommittee’s but are not members of the LECOH decision making body.

Former “Circle” members in good standing are considered to be Alumni and can be invited to fill roles in mentorship and support for active sitting members. Alumni can also be invited to participate in events and activities hosted or supported by the LECoH and COJHS with all the benefits of other Members (i.e. Honoraria). Alumni may be invited to fill a vacant seat on the circle for a designated period of time.

5) Board Representative

The LECoH table will select an individual to sit as the LECoH Representative with a voting seat at the COJHS Board. This position will be for 1 yr.

This member will still be required to fulfill all other duties as a LECoH Member.

Selection for LECoH COJHS Board Member:

  • Determined in conjunction with the annual Term turnover.
  • The LECoH will call for nominees, and as a standard practice member will only be able to nominate another member. No self nomination.
  • Each members makes two recommendations by secret ballot and they are collected and counted by the COJHS Support staff. Individual with the most nominations will be selected. In case of a tie a second vote of just the two will take place by secret ballot.
  • The Member with the second most nominations would be asked to sit as the alternate Board rep.
6) Dismissal

Any member struggling to fulfill the outlined duties (Job Description. appendix iii) will be engaged and offered support to re-connect and participate; however, any member may be removed from the group by a consensus decision for the following reasons:

  • absent 3 or more regularly scheduled meetings or otherwise unable to fulfill the duties or
  • any member found to be operating outside the guidelines and expectations of this TOR or Member Job description or
  • Abusive or disruptive behavior, interference or disreputable manner contrary to the Code of Conduct (appendix iii)
7) Honorariums
  • Members are provided with Honoraria for their participation in LECoH and the duties accepted as a LECoH Member.
  • Honorariums for Members acting on behalf of LECoH at other events or functions will be on a case by case basis and will be outlined during each request. Other organisations or groups may provide a Member with an Honorarium; however, any honorariums should be disclosed in the Members report.
  • Transportation to and from LECoH events by transit can be provided for those who require it, but arrangements need to be made in advance with the Supporting City /COJHS staff.
8) Meeting Arrangements
  • LECoH will recognize an Indigenous Land acknowledgment at all meetings and events.
  • LECoH will make “In memoriam” membership acknowledgement at all meetings and events.
  • Regular meetings will occur bi weekly at regular times in an agreed upon space. The schedule will be updated as needed.
  • Minutes and Agendas will be documented by LECoH members, with the assistance of COJHS support, and distributed by email.
  • Decision making will strive for consensus of the group members but in the case of *blocking or impasse a 2/3rds majority vote of present members will occur. (Blocking or impasse is the absolute disagreement of a proposal by one or more members- a call to vote will be outlined in the minutes and the vote will be carried out by show of hands by present members).
  • In lieu of a quorum, any member can Table a discussion for greater input from the Decision making members or for when the attendance numbers are low.
9) Reporting

LECoH will continue to inform the COJHS with representation on the board and to the greater lived experience community by publishing updates regularly on its webpage and distributing them to local info boards at homeless serving agencies. *under review

10) Resources and Budget

LECOH meeting space, meals, honorariums and incidental expenses will be covered by and arranged by the COJHS support staff.

11) Deliverables

The LECOH will continue to inform and support the greater community in understanding the realities of those experiencing homelessness; and will provide input and perspective toward system change in the Homeless serving sector wherever possible.

12) Review

The LECOH will review the TOR at regular intervals (every 6 months) to ensure adherence or to adjust as needed.

Source: LECoH internal files; originally developed in 2019 and updated in 2020

Exhibit 3: LECoH Member Job Description and Code of Conduct
Job Summary

The position of Member at the LECoH table is primarily responsible for participating at a high level in advocacy, advising and supporting the objectives of the LECoH and the COJHS (Central Okanagan Journey Home Society)

The objectives of the LECoH are to:

Continue to Advocate for the desired outcomes of the Journey home Lived Experience consultation process:

  • Peer Support
  • Support Public Awareness to reduce Stigma
  • Informing the homeless serving system and organizational development.
    • Act as a liaison between the greater Lived experience community and the COJHS.
    • Support the JHS as needed on any Public awareness or advocacy campaign.
    • Remain a resource for Agencies who are seeking the Lived Experience perspective.

Ultimately, the Intent is to continue to carry the voice of the homeless or those at risk of homelessness into the Strategic plan and beyond.

This is done not only by attendance, but active participation in regularly scheduled meetings of the LECoH with thoughtful contributions toward supporting the objectives. This requires active listening and consideration of others needs and perspectives and a desire to generate best outcomes for the Homeless and those at risk of Homelessness.

Members may also be asked to participate on active committee’s outside of LECoH with other professional and volunteer organizations in the Homeless serving sector, and are asked to represent the LECoH in a respectable and cooperative manner while advocating and advising on LECoH’ s behalf.

Members must have basic communication and organizational skills while other abilities such as experience in advocacy work, volunteering, and innovative solution based thinking are of value.


Members of the LECoH must have either personally lived or are currently living Homeless; or have been or are involved in the Homeless experience of a close family member.

Members must demonstrate: a positive and open minded attitude, be informed and ethical, able to assess community needs and have the desire and ability to operate in a collaborative group setting.

Duties and Responsibilities

The Duties of a Member may include but are not limited to:

  • Attend all meetings punctually and regularly
  • Be able to make and keep commitments
  • Be able to facilitate and/or be a note taker
  • Able to engage with people on the street
  • Be able to advocate with and within the larger community
  • Be a peer supporter
  • Be a public educator

The Responsibilities of a Member include but are not limited to:

  • Be a good listener
  • Speak your truth
  • Able to collaborate
  • Communicate respectfully
  • Represent a community and the varying interests within it
  • Adhere to the Code of Conduct outlined in the TOR.

LECoH Meetings will be scheduled, and the Member is asked to attend as many as possible within reason notifying the table of expected absences respectfully.

Members who accept positions on active committees or boards will be expected to attend and participate on LECoH’ s behalf with the same diligence.

Term of Service

The general term of service will be for 2 years. In order to provide a staggered election process some initial positions on the LECoH will be for 1 year.

Additional Information

Members are provided with Honoraria for their participation in LECoH and the duties accepted as a LECoH Member.

Transportation to and from LECoH members by City Transit can be provided for those who require it, but arrangements need to be made in advance with COJHS staff.

Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct mirrors the Core Values of Central Okanagan Journey Home Society (COJHS) and the City of Kelowna (COK) and describes the behaviour expected of LECoH members.

I will act ethically, according to the values and principles of COJHS/City of Kelowna

I will treat all people with respect and dignity

I will respect human diversity and will foster non-discriminatory activities

I will honour the rights, beliefs and personal values of individuals

I will behave with honesty and integrity when representing LECoH

I will respect the privacy of individuals, uphold personal confidentiality and operate within the law e.g. potential harm to self or others

I will not knowingly expose other members, to harm I will not take advantage of the peer relationship for personal benefit, material or financial gain

I will not provide representation of LECoH in a manner that negatively affects the public’s confidence in LECoH/COJHS and COK.

Source: LECoH internal files

Exhibit 4: Timeline of the Development of LECoH
  • June 2017: Journey Home Task Force announced
  • Fall 2017–Spring 2018: Lived Experience Circle formed and consultations occurred to inform the Journey Home strategy
  • June 2018: Journey Home strategy endorsed and adopted by Kelowna City Council
  • July 2018–February 2019: Transition period for Journey Home strategy
    • LECoH Transition Group formed to develop the LECoH Terms of Reference and job description, conduct the interviews and select the first LECoH cohort
    • Central Okanagan Journey Home Society (COJHS) incorporated under the Societies Act of British Columbia
    • COJHS selects its first executive director and board consisting of eight directors: five carried over from the task force and transition team and three new members, and six ex-officio officio members representing non-voting stakeholder roles from the homeless serving sector (Munro, 2018).
  • March 2019: First LECoH cohort is selected
  • March 2020: Interviews are held to select the second LECoH cohort
    • March 16, 2020: LECoH recruitment process put on hold due to COVID-19
Exhibit 5: Lived Experience Contributing Members, Journey Home Poem, and LECoH Pictures

The following is a list of lived experience members who were part of the original Steering Committee/Transition Team with the Lived Experience Circle as well as members of LECoH in 2019: Diane Larsback, Elaine McMurray, John Tranquilla, Dorothy Goodeye, Harold Smoke, Arnold Augustino, Ramsey Collier, Brenda Plitt, Derek, Eve, Ricky-Lee Karaszi, Sherry Landry, James Smith, Jonas, Eric Klassen, Nagata, Wanda MacKinnon.

The current group as of March 2020 consisted of: Dorothy Goodeye, James Smith, Sherry Landry, John Tranquilla, Stephanie Wilson, Harold Smoke and Elaine McMurray.

We respectfully acknowledge Diane Larsback, Wanda MacKinnon, and Ricky-Lee Karaszi as members in perpetuity.

Source: LECoH internal files


Long have I roamed city streets with no name

my heart full of empty

a bag stuffed with shame

searching endlessly for a place to rest my head

sharing my woes so I could have a bed

we all have a story which leads us here this day

I’ll tell you one I’ve heard that makes me want to stay

there once was a poor, wise man

his wisdom did save a town

he was broke and therefore not able to buy himself a crown

he did not live for fame nor desire endless glory

but little did he realize the town became his story

Now we the battle scarred

have gathered to sit at your table

hoping this journey home is more than just a fable

Can we speak our truth?

Will it fall on a hardened heart

or can we believe that together there is power for that brand new start?

Source: Diane Larsback, March 2018, as displayed in the Journey Home community report (Turner Strategies, 2018, p. 4)

LECoH Presentation Pictures

Figure 6. Workship Presentation at the CAEH Conference on November 5, 2019

Presenters From Left to Right: John Tranquilla, James Smith, Dorothy Goodeye, and Gerard Joyal

Source: K. Myrah, 2019

Figure 7. Seven Members of LECoH Attended the CAEH Conference, November 2019

From Left to Right: James Smith, Dorothy Goodeye, Gerard Joyal, Harold Smoke, Elaine McMurray, Sherry Landry, and John Tranquilla

Source: K. Myrah, 2019

Figure 8. LECoH Presentation at the Interfaith Roundtable to End Homelessness on December 5, 2019

Four LECoH Members Presented, From Left to Right: Harold Smoke, Dorothy Goodeye, Eric Klassen, and Elaine McMurray

Source: K. Myrah, 2019

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