The issue of homelessness isn’t just splashed across the front pages of this newspaper. It’s a reality we are increasingly being exposed to on all fronts.
The Linear Park homeless camp has helped in that regard — bringing the homeless out of the shadows of Polson Park and into broad daylight on busy 25th Avenue.
But that is a positive thing because it’s bringing more attention to the issue.
“They moved to a place that was a lot more public so I think it’s shocking to see what’s happening,” said Annette Sharkey with the Social Planning Council. “There’s agreement throughout the community, whether you have empathy for the homeless population or maybe anger towards the homeless population, the agreement is this isn’t OK.
“There’s a feeling now of we can’t ignore this. It’s not hidden.”
So while City of Vernon camping bylaws have done nothing to decrease the number of homeless individuals, they have brought more light to the issue.
What is needed to help our fellow citizens who are cast out in the cold is supportive housing.
“If we had more supportive housing, we would be able to bring people in from the outside, give them a chance to stabilize and then be able to move on with their lives as they have more programming and supports,” said Sharkey, adding that there are approximately 470 supportive housing beds in Vernon. “It’s not actually a complicated issue. There’s very straightforward solutions but really what that calls for is funding.”
Modular housing is one option, although Vernon is not currently identified as one of the communities to be included in such a program in B.C.
But that’s because Vernon isn’t the only community struggling.
“This (homelessness) is a B.C.-wide problem,” said Starkey. “That is partly why we have to be patient with these announcements.”