Residents, staff and board of McCulloch Court on Coldstream Avenue, along with its ground-floor businesses, sent a letter to Vernon council demanding that something be done about the ongoing issue with “homelessness and druggies.” On Tuesday, council simply received the document for information. (Morning Star - file photo)

No action from Vernon council to seniors’ petition calling for fixes to homelessness crisis

Seven-page letter, multi-signature petition demanding change received as information

Lots of words, no action.

Vernon council, after a 33-minute discussion, simply received for information a seven-page letter and multi-signature petition from the Vernon Pensions Accommodation Society (VPAS), based out of the McCulloch Court building on Coldstream Avenue. Its residents, staff, board and ground-floor business owners asked council to do something about the homelessness and drug problems surrounding their building.

The majority of the discussion was centred around responses to emails from the society which were received by mayor and council on Aug. 23.

Mayor Victor Cumming wrote a response on Aug. 28, or Coun. and former mayor Akbal Mund noted, three business days after the receipt of the society’s email.

READ MORE: Vernon seniors residence demands action on street problems from council

“There is a process,” Mund said. “We receive a lot of letters from the public and typically what happens is the mayor will respond back on behalf of council. I know sometimes the public is looking for a response from every individual councillor.”

Cumming said he saw the email on a Sunday and councillors Scott Anderson and Kari Gares had responded to the society.

“That makes it challenging,” Cumming said. “When we get a petition on a complex issue like this one, it’s really important we respond as a council, not as individuals. I think that’s really critical. It keeps council’s authority intact. It really undermines the decision-making here if councillors start responding individually when they know it’s a controversial issue.”

Anderson completely disagreed with the mayor.

“There was no response from the mayor as far as I can see until a week later,” Anderson said. “These people are scared. They don’t send in something so they can go through the format and wait two weeks for us to discuss it. They wanted to talk to somebody right away. I offered to do that and went with Coun. (Keri) Gares. We discussed it and made no promises on behalf of council.”

Gares, while respecting Cumming’s point of view, sided with Anderson.

“We have a collective group of seniors and they are another sector of our most vulnerable in Vernon, a lot of them are fearful,” Gares said, sharing a story of her own grandfather who lives in a building near McCulloch Court where a panhandler gained access to the building and went door-to-door asking for money.

The Vernon Pensioners Accommodation Society wrote to council they are ‘”sick and tired” of nothing being done about the ‘homelessness and druggies’ that are out of control in the City of Vernon.” They voiced concerns in the letter about being confronted with homeless-related problems “every time we step out of our home.”

“We get approached for money all the time, followed, obscenities shouted at us,” wrote Lesley Waughman, manager of VPAS.

READ MORE: Homelessness, open drug use continue to plague Vernon

The seven-page letter included a myriad of questions and complaints from tenants, ranging from why is so much help being given to the homeless and the drug addicts and not to seniors, moving the Upper Room Mission — which is less than two blocks away from McCulloch Court — from downtown and being scared to go out alone.

In his response, Cumming said council has committed and will spend more than $1.3 million to support additional policing this year, funded by local taxpayers, directed additional bylaw enforcement activities in downtown and throughout the city and have increased other clean-up activities in the downtown core.

He also said no location in North America has found “the magic solution” to resolving homelessness issues.

Coun. Kelly Fehr said there are 10 main issues that he sees in the society’s letter, and appreciated Cumming’s reply.

“It’s a larger issue at hand being faced by certainly more than Vernon,” Fehr said. “There is a fair bit we are doing and maybe we can send the society a followup letter, informing them of everything from the sharps pickup program to providing contact information stickers for businesses to put in their windows. I think they’re asking us to be their advocates and there are certain issues in their letter that are not within council’s authority.”

Anderson said council can’t answer calls for action from the public with “we can’t do anything, it’s out of our jurisdiction.”

“That’s unacceptable,” he said. “That’s not why we were elected so we can just pass the buck and say ‘well, talk to them.’ There are things we can do.”

READ MORE: Fundrasier started for family of Armstrong woman who lost cancer battle

READ MORE: Ski the Okanagan with SilverStar-Apex deals


@VernonNews
roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon rink into win column at BC Senior Curling finals

Vernon Curling Club hosting the province’s top senior curlers; finals set for Sunday at 10 a.m.

Vernon schools hosting OK Valley hoops finals

Senior Boys AA at Fulton; Senior Boys AAA at Vernon Secondary

Vernon bowlers dominate zones at home

Five teams from Lincoln Lanes advance to provincial YBC finals in Vernon/Kelowna

Vernon sewing instructor teaches flawless fitting

Clothes for real curves made possible with Dawne Whelpley’s workshops

Vernon-area duo still awaiting trial for animal abuse

Trial date expected to be set within the next three weeks

Okanagan divers ready to take on 2020 B.C. Winter Games

The athletes have been training four days a week

Galchenyuk nets shootout winner as Wild edge Canucks 4-3

Vancouver tied with Calgary for second spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

B.C.’s soda drink tax will help kids lose weight, improve health, says doctor

Dr. Tom Warshawski says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

B.C. mom’s complaint about ‘R word’ in children’s ministry email sparks review

In 2020, the ‘R’ word shouldn’t be used, Sue Robins says

Summerland transgender female follows her passion for hockey

“As soon as you put the jersey on, nothing underneath it matters.You are just a hockey player.”

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

EDITORIAL: Revisiting cannabis regulations

Recent retail license application has brought up concerns about present policy in Summerland

Guidelines regulate Summerland cannabis stores

The municipality’s policy, 300.6 establishes the 50-metre buffer zone around schools and parks

Most Read