"THERE'S NOWHERE IN VERNON WE'RE ALLOWED TO CAMP"
VERNON - Several homeless people in a makeshift camp near a busy highway intersection are going to have to find somewhere else to go because authorities removed it today.
The camp, roughly at the intersection of Highway 97 and 48 Avenue, consists of a number of tents and other personal effects and today, Jan. 18, contractors for the Ministry of Transportation took it away in trucks.
The camp has been in the area in various sizes for months and largely remained under the radar while other homeless groups touched off a vigorous debate in Vernon about how to best care for homeless people.
Located next to a creek, the camp is made up of several tents, sheds and makeshift structures. One camper who was given 48 hours to remove his possessions says he has no idea where he’s going to go.
“I got out most everything, it’s just I have nowhere to bring it,” Mike, who declined to give his last name, says. “I haven’t had enough time to find somewhere to bring it. Where I went to put my stuff to store it for now, I’m already getting kicked out of. So, I don’t know what I’m going to do. At this point, I don’t have the energy to move everything anymore. I’ve been up all night packing and moving.”
The 38-year-old Vernon resident says he’s been chronically homeless for the past couple years, and has been living at the camp in a tent for the past five months. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, Mike says it wasn’t too bad sleeping in the tent, which he kept warm with a propane heater.
“I don’t do well in shelters. I don’t do well with large groups of people,” Mike says.
At its peak, he says there were around 25 people living at the camp, declining to about half a dozen when winter hit.
“One girl was camped here for a year-and-a-half,” he says. “She’s absolutely devastated.”
He says his biggest barrier to finding housing is the high cost.
“There’s no affordable housing in Vernon. What few affordable housing I can afford is (not going) to people like me,” he says. “Ex-criminals. I look like a criminal, I have a tattoo on my neck. I generally look like a ruffian, I guess.”
In the time he’s been homeless, he says he’s been moved multiple times.
“There’s nowhere in Vernon we’re allowed to camp,” he says. “This was the first place we’d been in a long time they didn’t kick us out of.”
Instead of evicting campers, he thinks the authorities should have brought dumpsters in.
“We would’ve happily cleaned it,” Mike says. “Instead of (them) spending how much money to get these people to clean it.”
He won’t be returning to the camp, he says, because RCMP officers told him earlier today he’d be arrested if he does.
The Ministry of Transportation has not yet provided a comment on today's activities.
— This story was updated at 2:53 p.m. Jan. 18, 2018 with more information.
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