A dozen people grabbed some garbage bags and rubber gloves and took it on themselves to clean litter and debris from 24th Avenue in Vernon Monday, March 16.
Several bags of trash were collected between 41st and 34th streets by members of VEPAD, or Vernon Entrenched People Against Discrimination.
Among those tidying up was VEPAD co-founder Shane Dallyn and his wife, Joanne. The pair experienced homelessness in Vernon for a year and a half before moving into My Place.
Since having a roof over their heads and working with Turning Points Collaborative and other local agencies, Dallyn said everything has changed.
“It’s given us so many employment chances and respect in the community,” he said, noting the couple has worked with Interior Health and are spearheading the Folks on Spokes initiative.
“We’re all about breaking the stigma,” Dallyn said. “My biggest thing is we were getting painted with the same brush as everyone else.”
“We’re good people, we’re really educated, but we had a rough spot,” he said.
Cleaning up city streets, Dallyn said, is part of that.
“When we first moved here, it didn’t feel like home because we were shunned,” he said. “Now, it feels like home. You see the goodness here and it’s a beautiful place.
“Just pick up after yourselves and if you don’t, we’ll come do it for you.”
The hour-long cleanup was in lieu of the group’s every-second-Monday meeting at the Friendship Centre. The centre has been closed alongside several businesses in the province amid growing concerns amid the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Alison Houweling of the Cammy LaFleur Street Outreach Program said 24th Avenue was targeted after she continued to read negative feedback about its cleanliness on social media, like rant-and-rave forums.
Dallyn said VEPAD has been waiting to do a cleanup like this.
“It’s a good opportunity for people to gather in a small group,” he said.
Dallyn said his work with VEPAD and other organizations, including the peer program, has motivated him and given him new direction in life.
“We have come full circle,” Dallyn said about he and his wife, Joanne. “It’s a passion. I want to do this as a career now. I’m being mentored like that now from a couple different people.”