A successful needle clean-up program has returned to the streets of Vernon.
The Folks on Spokes team has been back in the downtown area for the past five weeks, thanks to a grant from the Community Action Initiative (CAI) and support from the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Overdose Emergency Response Centre.
First piloted in April 2019, the program mobilizes a clean-up team that sweeps a list of known needle hot spots in the downtown area. Hot spots are cleaned early in the morning to support businesses as they open, and again in the mid-afternoon. Other areas of concern are added to the list as they surface.
The funding was originally earmarked for the hiring of a dedicated program coordinator, but those plans were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Folks on Spokes program was incredibly successful last year, so we were looking forward to taking the next step of hiring a coordinator,” said Rachael Zubick, Vernon community safety coordinator. “Thankfully, the CAI generously redirected the funds to allow for the project to run with a few administrative and program adjustments instead.”
Zubick says in the five weeks since the program restarted, the team has removed 72 bags of garbage and properly disposed of 52 needles.
The program engages people with lived experienced with substance use, helping to build relationships between peers, businesses and the broader community while also providing pre-employment opportunities.
“The FOS program helps build skills and confidence for peers who are taking part in the program,” said Christy Poirier, city of Vernon communications manager.
Folks on spokes is coordinated through the City of Vernon Community Safety Office in partnership with Partner’s in Action Sharps Action Team.
To report an improperly discarded needle or an emerging hot-spot downtown, call 250-550-7841 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday. After hours, call Vernon Bylaw Compliance at 250-550-3505.