Agencies ensure services for motel tenants

Concerns surround the possibility of people living on street if motel sells

Efforts are underway to ensure problems with Vernon’s homeless don’t flare up again.

A number of people who have been living  on the street have recently taken up residence at a motel in the downtown core.

“There aren’t services attached to the motel and there have been instances where the RCMP have had to come,” said Annette Sharkey, with Partners in Action, which focuses on social issues in Vernon.

A meeting was recently held between motel representatives, the RCMP, the John Howard Society, the street clinic, the Upper Room Mission, B.C. Housing, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the probation branch and the Ministry of Social Development.

“We are working on getting outreach workers to help the caretaker and the people living at the motel,” said Sharkey.

The motel is also working closely with the RCMP to provide more supervision.

Besides criminal behaviour, there is also a concern about what happens to the tenants if the motel is developed.

“Many of these individuals would be sleeping outside if the motel is sold,” said Sharkey.

Other housing options have been identified if the property was sold.

In June, a number of service and enforcement agencies conducted a census of homeless camps in Vernon.

“We did not find one camp in public places or the usual places,” said Sharkey.

“That’s not to say there aren’t camps but we’re not seeing the same activity as before.”

In 2006, there were about 200 people living outside and in 2009, there were 30 camps.

“Even though we have been able to reduce the number of homeless camps we still have work to do around homelessness,” said Sharkey.

“We know that people are regularly using the shelter and couch surfing with friends and family.  Despite the high vacancy rate, rents are still unaffordable for low-income folks.”

Sharkey said the push now is for more affordable supported units for people with disabilities, mental health issues and addictions.

“This is the only way to truly address the issue of homelessness.”