Lack of workers impacts shelters

Vernon’s John Howard Society has had to close some emergency mats at its homeless shelters because of a lack of staff

A non-profit agency that provides critical services is being hammered by the worker shortage.

The John Howard Society has had to close some emergency mats at its homeless shelters because of a lack of staff.

“If they are closed one night, our clients may not come back the next night,” said Kelly Fehr, director of operations.

And a shortage of employees could increasingly become a problem if services are ramped up.

Discussions are currently underway with B.C. Housing to fund mats for a 24-hour period instead of the current 12 hours.

“With winter coming up, we could have extra spaces but we don’t have the staff,” said Fehr.

There are presently 24 beds at the Gateway shelter downtown and 24 beds at Howard House.

The biggest struggle has been finding casual employees.

“Our casuals will be receiving almost full-time work,” said Fehr of the workload.

The society is unionized and a starting wage for someone with no skills is $17.10 an hour.

A specific education level is not required, but prospective workers are asked to be empathetic, compassionate and willing to support the homeless.

“Some people don’t fit the skills at all,” said Fehr.