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64 people access rent bank in 6 months in Vernon

Canadian Mental Health Association concerned about the number of people on the brink of homelessness
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The executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon and District says there’s a direct correlation between mental health and being homeless. (Morning Star file photo)

Following Vernon’s homeless count, a local agency is concerned about the real number of people on the brink of living rough.

Vernon’s Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) branch has distributed more than $36,000 in loans that impact 64 people – single individuals, families, and seniors - in the last six months.

“Our initial estimates for the North Okanagan Rent Bank were that we’d issue about $30,000 a year in loans, and we’ve issued more than that in the last six months,” said Julia Payson, CMHA executive director. “Many of those families and individuals who are currently housed in our community are at high risk for homelessness.”

The Rent Bank provides housing stability to low to moderate income earners who are unable to pay rent or utilities due to an emergency that compromises their ability to pay.

“Provincial funding assists with the Rent Bank, but there is a need for community partners to join the provincial investment through the Coldest Night of the Year event in February or through direct donations to the CMHA Rent Bank.”

Payson says there’s a direct correlation between being homeless and mental health. And accessing mental health services becomes difficult when a primary focus is where you’re going to sleep for the night, she adds.

The B.C. government released the latest homeless count for Vernon on Oct. 7, and the count indicates the number of people who identified as experiencing homelessness rose from 224 in 2021 to 279 between April 27 and 28, 2023, when Vernon’s count was conducted.

The 2023 homeless count indicated that 64 per cent of respondents in Vernon experienced mental health issues, while 45 per cent had a brain injury, 73 per cent had addiction concerns and 28 per cent had a learning disability.

“These counts are point in time so it’s important to remember that they are the minimum number of folks in our community who are experiencing homelessness,” said Wade Weston, CMHA Vernon’s acting housing manager.

“In addition, there are many people who do not appear in this data who are in precarious housing, or who are one missed paycheque or unexpected bill away from losing their own shelter.

“Given the current economic climate, I suspect there are many that can only hold on for much longer.”

To learn more about CMHA Vernon and the North Okanagan Rent Bank, visit https://cmhavernon.ca/.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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