Improperly discarded needles are still an issue in the North Okanagan despite needle cleanup programs, bins and provincial supports.
Between July and September, 129 needles or sharps were removed from city streets, according to the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP third-quarter report.
The volunteer-based group, Folks on Spokes, resumed cleanup efforts at the end of July, and with the assistance of an RCMP community safety officer, 145 bags of garbage and 129 needles were discarded.
First piloted in April 2019, the program mobilizes a cleanup 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 Folks on Spokes program was incredibly successful last year, so we were looking forward to taking the next step of hiring a coordinator,” community safety coordinator Rachael Zubick said in September. “Thankfully, the CAI (Community Action Initiative) generously redirected the funds to allow for the project to run with a few administrative and program adjustments instead.”
The program engages people with lived experience 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 Partners 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.