Homeless strategy positive in Vernon

EDITORIAL: Abbotsford recently had its knuckles rapped over its handling of homeless citizens

Abbotsford recently had its knuckles rapped over its handling of homeless citizens.

The courts told the Fraser Valley community that its ban on sleeping in parks violated the Charter of Rights to security of persons.

While no one wants tent cities permanently taking hold in public places, it appears the message from the court was that municipalities have to consider options to address the homeless instead of just the heavy hand.

Case in point, is what’s happening in Vernon.

Through a co-operative approach, the Social Planning Council, the City of Vernon’s bylaw compliance department, John Howard Society and other agencies identify homeless individuals and make them aware of critical services available to them.

“This is a very unique partnership between bylaws and community outreach workers and not every city approaches homeless camps with this kind of collaboration,” said Annette Sharkey, with the Social Planning Council.

It’s all about treating the homeless not as a stereotype or someone to be feared, but a member of the community who deserves respect and compassion. It is through this approach that Vernon has been able to reduce the number of homeless camps from 30 in 2009 to six this fall.

However, the reality is that there are still homeless in Vernon and that means all levels of government and local agencies must continue to be vigilant. The solution is expanded access to affordable housing connected with support systems.

But given the strong track record seen to date in Vernon, we know the issue is in good hands.