City of Vernon crews clean up homeless camps in the community.

City of Vernon crews clean up homeless camps in the community.

MLA urged to tackle homelessness in Vernon

Juliette Cunningham wants council to meet with Eric Foster

Vernon officials are demanding the local MLA take a role in addressing homelessness.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham told her colleagues during budget talks Wednesday that more needs to be done about homelessness than just removing camps.

“This council needs to meet with our MLA and talk to him about how unacceptable this is,” she said.

“I’m not hearing enough from our MLA on where he sits on this issue and how he is advocating for the community.”

Cunningham got support Thursday that Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster be invited to a meeting.

‘ It’s something that’s long overdue,’ said Coun. Scott Anderson.

Foster says he recognizes that homeless camps are a serious issue.

“People not having a place to sleep is not acceptable,” he said.

However, he insists the provincial government is doing what it can.

“We’ve spent a tremendous amount of money on supportive housing in this community. It’s a problem right across the province and we remain focused on it. We just put another $620 million into supportive housing.”

As part of the budget talks, council debated whether $30,000 should be put aside so the city can clean up homeless camps in 2017.

“If we’re going to take a proactive approach, you need to be able to fund it,” said Coun .  Brian Quiring.

The city spent about $30,000 dismantling three camps in 2016.

Ultimately, council decided that  $60,000 in leftover funds from 2016  be placed in reserves for camp cleanup. Reserves will also be used to provide $30,000 for bylaw  summer staff.

‘That will allow them to extend summer hours and the season,’ said Will Pearce, chief administrative  officer.

Coun.Catherine Lord  admits cleanup and bylaw efforts  only partially  address homelessness.

‘Homelessness is becoming a crisis and I can’t see it getting better unless there is a huge influx of money from the federal and provincial  governments,’ she said.