Homeless issue remains on the radar

A number of people turned away from the shelter because of high demand

Finding a safe, warm place for the night continues to be a challenge.

Vernon city council was told Monday that there were six homeless camps identified in October, up from three in May 2015.

“It (increase) wasn’t as significant as feared but we’re hearing from the Gateway shelter that they’re experiencing more turn-aways,” said Annette Sharkey, with the Social Planning Council.

Another primary focus for the Social Planning Council and Partners in Action has been panhandling and addressing public concerns about safety.

Information was developed by community policing and the Downtown Vernon Association to make businesses aware of how to handle such situations.

“The information went out to businesses but I’m not sure what the response has been,” said Sharkey.

A recent Morning Star letter to the editor detailed a 15-year-old girl who was panhandling and living on the street because she had no where to go.

Sharkey says there is an emergency shelter for teens ages 13 to 18 who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

“If they go there night after night, staff will work with them to find a solution,” said Sharkey.

A new initiative has clients of the local shelters cleaning up the downtown core.

“It’s about involving people in the community and being part of the solution downtown.”

In some cities, the Housing First program has taken hold. According to the agency’s website, it puts the priority on a rapid and direct move from homelessness to housing.

However, Coun. Juliette Cunningham is concerned such a model hasn’t occurred in Vernon.

“There’s a very narrow parameter of communities that can get it,” she said.

“When people get secure housing, they can deal with their other issues.”