Vernon meeting focuses on homeless

Part of City of Vernon Activate Safety Task Force recommendation draws close to 80 people to meeting

As a maintenance contractor for Vernon’s Fruit Plaza, street person Chris Morton has his own stories about life in Vernon’s downtown core.

But attending Wednesday’s meeting among business owners, non-profits, municipal government and RCMP members, mandated by the City of Vernon as part of its Activate Safety Task Force recommendations to discuss homeless issues in Vernon’s business improvement area (BIA), the stories Morton heard at his round table made his already short-cropped hair stand up.

RELATED: Vernon task force recommendations stir debate

“I’m not a business owner, but I can understand that their livelihood is being affected by public defecation and the drug use out in the open,” said Morton, 23, originally from New Brunswick who came to Vernon “on a whim” at 16.

“I pick up needles on a daily basis. I pick up human feces on a daily basis, which is disgusting.”

Morton said he’s held the maintenance contract at the Fruit Union Plaza, on the corner of Highway 6 and 32nd Avenue, for more than a year. Every morning, for 90 minutes, he cleans the grounds outside, changes the bags in the garbage cans, cleans up the dumpsters out back and does everything he can “to make sure everything looks good.”

So that, and the fact he lives on the street gave Morton a chance to share his unique perspective at Wednesday’s two-hour gathering at the Schubert Centre.

“I’m currently on the street and have been on the street for five years, but I’m not the standard homeless person,” Morton clarifies. “I volunteer 400 hours a year, donate a significant portion of my income. I’m very active in the community and many business owners here today encouraged me to be here, and rightfully so, to give my unique input.”

RELATED: Downtown Vernon encouraged by council steps

Facilitated by consultants Urban Matters, Wednesday’s meeting drew close to 80 people taking part in a round-table format to review issues and concerns within the BIA, discuss new and upcoming programs and initiatives and brainstorm potential actions for moving forward.

“There was talk on some of the community’s social issues, diving into what are the issues, what do we love about community, what’s working well and what do we need to support each other to make this even better,” said Jen Casorso of Urban Matters.

Over two hours, she said, Casorso and her team heard a lot about safety.

“A lot of folks are feeling a loss of safety in some ways,” she said. “Or they’ve seen an increase in aggressive behaviour and are not sure what to do about it. Hopefully, this was a space to connect with some of the other agencies, establish partnerships so they can call up and say, ‘Hey, can you help with this?’”

Cera Brown, Upper Room Mission general manager, said the Mission shares many of the concerns expressed at the meeting.

“I think today’s meeting was a step in the right direction,” said Brown. “It was a step toward building a better understanding of what issues we face as a community and how, we as a community, are going to address those issues.”

However, Morton said he didn’t get to say as much as he wanted to in the format. He gave a couple of suggestions on what can be done to improve the homeless situation, one of which is having community policing or bylaw build a rapport with the homeless.

“Find out where they’re sleeping the next night, what their family life is like, find out what they need and build a case for each person,” said Morton, whose suggestion stems from a Social Planning Council of North Okanagan twice-a-year homeless census where those without homes can take a survey and answer personal questions, something Morton thinks is a great idea that should be done more.

Overall, Morton felt Wednesday’s meeting, “did not go in the direction I wish it had.”

“There was a lot of fluff, a lot of talk about what’s nice about downtown,” he said. “But the problems, there wasn’t a lot of talk about ‘the elephant in the room.’ I hope there’s more meetings like this and that they’re a bit more productive.”

Casorso and her team will compile the notes taken Wednesday, put together a few recommendations, and report to Vernon council, hopefully by the end of February. Council – all seven of whom were in attendance Wednesday – will then decide on the next steps.

Vernon council meets Monday and again on Feb. 25.



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Highway 97 in Lake Country reopens after police incident near Airport Inn

Traffic was backed up on the highway for several hours

Get your head out of clouds, Vernon

Fall fog sticks around all day in northern portion of valley

North Okanagan district seeks applicants for waste management advisory group

RDNO looking for 15 people from business, community sectors for working group

Leave gravesites alone: Vernon mother

Woman noticed the flower loop was missing from her son’s plot on the anniversary of his death

Man gets 18 months jail for dealing heroin, fentanyl in Vernon

Sung Hwan Choi, 23, found guilty of trafficking drugs from Lower Mainland in May 2019

VIDEO: ‘Climate emergency’ is Oxford’s 2019 Word of the Year

Other words on the shortlist included ‘extinction,’ ‘climate denial’ and ‘eco-anxiety’

Canucks erupt with 5 power-play goals in win over Nashville

Vancouver ends three-game slide with 6-3 triumph over Predators

65-million-year-old triceratops makes its debut in Victoria

Dino Lab Inc. is excavating the fossilized remains of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur

B.C. widow suing health authority after ‘untreatable’ superbug killed her husband

New Public Agency Health report puts Canadian death toll at 5,400 in 2018

Changes to B.C. building code address secondary suites, energy efficiency

Housing Minister Selina Robinson says the changes will help create more affordable housing

Security guard at Kamloops music festival gets three years for sexually assaulting concertgoer

Shawn Christopher Gray walked the woman home after she became seperated from her friends, court heard

Keremeos Fire Department acquires new truck

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen approves fire truck purchases for Keremeos, Willowbrook

Most Read