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Homeless memorial proposed

Efforts are underway to ensure that the North Okanagan’s homeless are never forgotten.

Chuck Harper, a residential worker for the John Howard Society and a community chaplain, has proposed a permanent memorial in Polson Park to those homeless individuals who have died.

“The issues of homelessness and poverty continue to affect the lives of our marginalized,” Harper told Vernon city council Monday.

“We want to do something that honours the lives of our street friends.”

Fourteen homeless residents have died in Vernon in the past year.

The memorial would be a place for friends and family to gather to reflect on their loved ones. It would also serve as a reminder of the impact of homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

“We can remember lives lost and move forward and eliminate homelessness and poverty,” said Harper.

The concept of a memorial arose after a homeless resident Harper knew died.

“This wrecked me to the point where I felt led to do something about it,” he said.

Similar memorials exist in Santa Clara, Calif., London, Ont., Edmonton and Toronto.

The memorial would be located next to the gazebo in Polson Park and a large rock has already been donated for the memorial. The John Howard Society will look after ongoing maintenance and repairs.

Vernon council has not made an official decision yet on allowing the memorial in Polson Park, but there appears to be support for Harper’s plan.

“He has brought forward an issue of no personal benefit and is thinking of the community,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

As a retired physician, Sawatzky is aware of the health challenges created by homelessness.

“Issues like homelessness make you sick and weak and you die far sooner than the average age,” he said.

 

 

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