Partners target city safety

The 2014 final report from the Partners In Action initiative has been released

Ongoing safety concerns in downtown Vernon continue to be tackled co-operatively.

The 2014 final report from the Partners In Action initiative indicates the safety of residents visiting and working downtown was a priority.

“Any time there’s an issue, you want to get a 360-degree look at it,” said Annette Sharkey, with the Social Planning Council, which administers Partners In Planning.

A variety of stakeholders were part of the process, including community policing, bylaw compliance officers, the RCMP and the Downtown Vernon Association.

“We want to know what their issues are,” said Sharkey.

“Businesses can be impacted (by social concerns) so we want them to be part of the discussion.”

There appeared to be no major increase in safety problems in 2014, but the action team will continue to monitor the situation.

Another action team spent 2014 focused on sex trade workers downtown.

“It increased access to support and services for women involved in the sex trade,” said Sharkey, adding that the team participants include the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society, the RCMP, residents and the First Nations Friendship Centre.

NOFYSS and the RCMP are seeking federal funds to open a drop-in centre for women in the sex trade.

Another component of Partners In Planning is to determine how many homeless camps exist.

“The team follows a protocol where bylaw officers and outreach workers work together to contact homeless camps and connect campers to services such as the Gateway Shelter and the Upper Room Mission,” said Sharkey.

The number of homeless camps has gone from 30 in June 2009 to three in November 2014.

“If you ignore issues, they just get worse,” said Sharkey.

“There is a lot of preventative work involved in Partners In Planning as well as addressing issues as they arise.”