July 20, 2013 - 6:33 AM
VERNON - Things have come a long way in the past four years with homeless camps across the city decreasing from 30 to two.
"We're having success connecting people who are homeless with the Gateway Shelter and other services," Annette Sharkey, executive director of the North Okanagan Social Planning Council told Vernon city councillors Monday.
In 2007, the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan received a federal grant to create a community strategy to address the issue of homelessness in the North Okanagan. At that time, there were very few services for the homeless, leaving people in the community cold, hungry and without shelter.
At the same time, other sectors were disturbed by the visible impact of an increased street population on public spaces and parks, Sharkey said. In particular, businesses in the city centre were concerned about customers avoiding downtown due to potential crime or harassment by panhandlers.
"There was an agreement that something needed to be done and that the issue of homelessness could not be ignored," Sharkey said in her report to council.
With the new funding, a coordinator was hired to create an inventory of services, identify gaps and consult with various stakeholders in the community.
"Over the last five years, there have been many successes," Sharkey said. "There have also been challenges that have not been met."
A lack of detox services and supported housing for people with mental health or addictions issues topped the list. Sharkey spoke about a new pilot program that will help address alcohol addiction without patients having to go to the detox centre in Kamloops.
"We still have a lot of work to do," she said.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013