A majority of Vernon’s homeless population either grew up in the area or have family here, and they’ve been around for more than a year.
Partners in Action, part of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan, conducted a summer census and survey project on July 18 and 19, similar to ones conducted in the fall of 2017.
“A summer census was added this year to see if there were any significant differences that would help to inform programming or interventions,” said Annette Sharkey, executive director of the Social Planning Council. “We are showing similar numbers to last fall but with some small shifts in terms of whether people were inside or outside.”
The summer census showed 158 people were without homes, compared to 153 in the fall, and 144 in the fall of 2016.
A total of 56 people are staying at the Howard House (up from 51 in the fall), 25 are at the Gateway Shelter (22 in the fall), 10 are in temporary weather shelters (6), 24 identified as homeless are at Bill’s Place (9) and 11 homeless were at the Vernon Women’s Transition House (20 in fall 2017).
The census identified 30 people living in homeless camps (down from 44 in the fall) and two were in other locations (ie, RCMP cells, VJH). There was only such one in those locations in autumn.
Sharkey said 40 per cent of people considered to be homeless took part in a survey which asked a number of different questions, which she said is a similar participation rate for the fall 2016 and 2017 surveys.
Asked when they moved to Vernon, 30 per cent of respondents said they’d been in the area less than a year (20 per cent in fall 2017).
“We were expecting an increase, as people from all demographics tend to move more during the summer months,” said Sharkey. “Interestingly, however, more than 70 per cent of people surveyed have been in Vernon longer than a year.”
Most of the homeless population come from either B.C. or Alberta with only a handful listing themselves as being from east of Saskatchewan.
Of the people surveyed, close to 60 per cent either grew up in Vernon or have family here, though that number is down from 76 per cent in the fall census. More than half the people who arrived in the last year have family ties or grew up in this area.
Sharkey said the homelessness situation is a direct result of the provincial housing crisis combined with a record low vacancy rate. The solution, she said, is more housing.
“The Housing Action Team continues to meet two-to-three times a year to update the inventory and share goals and plans for future units,” she said.
More affordable housing is coming to Vernon within the next year.
There will be 52 units at the My Place Apartment and 46 beds at Our Place Shelter, both to be run by the Turning Point Collaborative (formerly John Howard Society). The Vernon Native Housing Society is planning 38 units and the Vancouver Resource Society will open 41 units.
“More announcements could be made in the future as our community is well organized, extremely collaborative and continues to apply for more units,” said Sharkey.