The City of Vernon’s Folks on Spokes pilot program kicks off this spring to provide the community with a hotline to report improperly discarded needles.
Along with the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society’s (NOYFSS) weekly deep clean, which will start in March (weather depending), teams of peers will be recruited and trained to provide a daily clean-up of identified hot spots.
The Folks on Spokes team will work under the umbrella of the Community Safety Office. The primary goal is to reduce the incidence of improperly discarded needles and remove garbage to maintain the cleanliness of the community. This, in turn, will enhance the feeling of safety and address the concerns of businesses and residents.
In other communities providing a similar program, having people with lived experience was critical to the program’s success.
“The city is taking action,” said Victor Cumming, Mayor of Vernon. “People will be able to call the hotline and Folks on Spokes will respond to clean-up discarded needles. The program also covers daily clean-ups of identified hotspots in the downtown.
“Daily clean-ups will work in conjunction with NOYFSS’ weekly downtown deep clean. Council’s desire is that people will see fewer discarded needles, and if they do spot needles, they can make a phone call and the needle will be disposed of safely and properly.”
Community Safety Office volunteers, already trained to take reports, will staff the line from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. weekdays. Calls will be forwarded to bylaw compliance after hours and on weekends. During the summer, the Vernon Safety Ambassadors will be available to take calls on Saturdays, and all calls will be documented and hot spots will be mapped for future clean-ups.
Teams will hit the streets from 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. They will be provided with maps updated to reflect the changing needs of the community, such as areas no longer requiring attention and emerging locations.
The Downtown Vernon Association has indicated it will assist by regularly soliciting feedback from downtown businesses on the successes and challenges of the program.
Business outside the business improvement area can provide feedback through the Community Safety Office. The Social Planning Council will assist with a final evaluation report on the program for city council, to be completed by Dec.31.