Provincial funding cuts are being blamed for a crisis on Vernon streets.
City officials are alarmed that gaming grants have been cut to non-profit agencies, such as the Upper Room Mission, and that is resulting in social problems.
“To say the agencies aren’t providing a community wide benefit is asinine,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham Monday
“It’s totally unacceptable. I’m outraged, I really am.”
The Upper Room Mission has lost a $100,000 gaming grant, or 13 per cent of its total budget.
That means that while three meals a day are still provided, the mission is otherwise closed because of a lack of resources. Clients that used to hang out there between meals are now left on the street or wandering downtown.
“I drove by the mission and it was a mob scene. You can see the desperation in people’s faces,” said Coun. Brian Quiring, adding that a fight broke out.
The problems related to URM’s reduced hours have also been noticed by others.
“The RCMP and service providers have noticed people have no where to go,” Annette Sharkey, with the Social Planning Council, told city council.
City council and the Social Planning Council’s Partners in Action committee will get together to discuss the issue further and strategize how to lobby the provincial government.
“We know what’s significantly needed to change this community for the better,” said Sharkey.
The loss of gaming grants comes at the samew time that social agencies are experiencing increased demand and homelessness is expected to surge.
Among the factors leading to homlessness is the closure of the Green Valley Motel, evictions from other low-income housing units and economic conditions.
“Young men are returning from Alberta and they need housing,” said Sharkey.
“We are trying to figure out how we will address this increase in demand.”
More drug-related needles are also being found in Vernon.
Eric Foster, Vernon-Monashee MLA, has met with the Ministry of Community Development to discuss grant reductions.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on. We’re working on it,” he said.
“I am concerned these organizations that give vital services are talking about cutting back services.”