Sarah Yerhoff

Sarah Yerhoff

Make spirits bright in Vernon shelters

Gifts can be provided to those in the John Howard and Gateway shelters

Local residents can extend the Christmas spirit to those without a place to call home.

An annual tradition, Homeless Partners provides the public with the opportunity to ready the Christmas wish lists from those living in a Vernon shelter and then to make those wishes become a reality.

“Christmas is an especially hard time for them so we do what we can to make it a special moment,” said Kelly Fehr, John Howard Society director of operations.

“We want them to know they are loved by the community.”

As part of the program, those living at the John Howard and Gateway shelters post their stories online.

“They may not have money for gifts for their kids or for basic necessities like clothes or toiletries,” said Sarah Yerhoff, housing outreach provider.

In one case last year, an individual was provided with a laptop computer.

“He was able to complete a two-year course at Okanagan College,” said Fehr.

The reasons individuals find themselves in a shelter are varied and complex.

One man found himself divorced and he lost his home, which led to an alcohol addiction. He ultimately got into treatment and began rebuilding his life.

One Christmas, he posted his story online and he received the gift of a bus ticket so he could see his son graduate.

“It was a healing moment for the family,” said Fehr.

About 50 stories were shared last year and 40 received support from the community.

Yerhoff believes Homeless Partners provides the public with awareness about homelessness.

“There can be a disconnect — us and them,” she said.

“It shows that with rising costs for housing and food, we can all be one step away from being homeless.”

Stories are currently being posted at homelesspartners.com

“Keep checking back because more stories will be added,” said Fehr.