New year brings challenges, opportunities for Vernon homeless

Social Planning Council/Partners in Action working on new strategies

Housing, housing and more housing.

The North Okanagan’s Social Planning Council/Partners In Action said finding more housing for the area’s homeless remains a top priority, coming off a challenging 2017.

“We are working on different applications for funding grants, we are definitely prepared,” said Annette Sharkey with the Social Planning Council in a quarterly report to Vernon council.

“We would like to get as many units as possible into our community and now is definitely the time.”

The SPC will receive $50,000 from Service Canada to host a workshop so stakeholders can learn more about housing models.

There is also significant funding in that grant to hire a consultant to work with the City of Vernon and SPC to update housing strategies.

“It will be great to have someone come in, take a look at what we’ve done, look at our data – we collect a lot of data – look at our evaluations and help us figure out what’s our next focus,” said Sharkey.

“A lot of work has happened but it’s good to have someone come in from the outside, take a look and make some recommendations based on best practices as to what’s happening in housing right now.”

Sharkey said 2018 is going to be another challenging year for the organizations in terms of the homeless population, but she also sees opportunities.

One highly-visible homeless camp was decommissioned last week on Highway 97 near Vernon Toyota at 48th Avenue, which saw the Ministry of Transportation – which owns the property – evict close to a half-dozen people living there.

“Our shelters are definitely full at this point,” said Sharkey. “That’s with the shelter beds and the 33 extra mats (placed at Gateway Shelter and Howard House) are full every night.”

In October, it was estimated by the Camp Okanagan Outreach Liaison (COOL) team that 55 people were sleeping outdoors and that number has been reduced to 20-to-25.

Sharkey also presented to council on years in review for the Sharps Action Team, which had a successful year reducing the number of needles in the community, and the Shopping Cart Action team, created to address the issue of abandoned and stolen shopping carts.

“We hope to talk to some grocery stores and see if they have any carts they are transitioning out and can donate to the team,” said Sharkey.

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