City of Vernon crews clean up a homeless camp Wednesday near Polson Park.

City of Vernon crews clean up a homeless camp Wednesday near Polson Park.

Support demands grow as Vernon homeless camps cleared

City of Vernon has been decommissioning homeless camps near Polson Park and the Vernon Square Mall

Calls for more resources are growing as homeless camps are shut down.

The City of Vernon has been decommissioning homeless camps near Polson Park and the Vernon Square Mall, and that has Kelly Fehr, with the John Howard Society, demanding that senior governments provide supportive housing.

“We need it on a grand scale,” he said.

Supportive housing not only provides a place to sleep but access to programs for individuals with recovery and mental health issues.

The city began focusing on homeless camps because seasonal staff that was providing assistance in the camps is no longer available.

“Bylaw officers and the John Howard Society are doing a good job of working together,” said Fehr.

“Bylaw staff made sure there is shelter space (before removing camps). There is still room and people can come in and get warm, but once it snows, there won’t be room.”

However, Fehr admits that some individuals are hesitant to go into a shelter.

“There are people who sleep outside and never come inside,” he said.

“It’s for a variety of reasons. Because of addiction or mental health issues, they can’t maintain tenancy at this stage in their life.”

The Interior Health Authority and John Howard Society recently entered into an agreement to provide four supportive housing units.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham also wants the federal and provincial governments to put more focus on homelessness.

“The federal government has gone away from subsidized housing over the last 20 to 30 years and welfare rates haven’t increased while costs are going up,” she said, adding that providing housing and support programs reduce health care and policing costs.

For Cunningham, the city has been placed in a challenging situation when it comes to camps.

“It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves with a number of people without proper accommodations,” she said.

“But we have to balance that with safety issues. We don’t know how safe it can be for them there.”

The city says fires have occurred in the tents and  a large numbers of needles  have been found, while there is a concern about sanitation.