'Monumental' announcement promises two modular housing projects to combat homelessness in Vernon - InfoNews

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'Monumental' announcement promises two modular housing projects to combat homelessness in Vernon

John Howard Society co-executive director Kelly Fehr hugs Jacob Philp, who battled homelessness and addiction and now works at the shelter in Vernon, helping others onto a brighter path.
November 15, 2017 - 3:37 PM

VERNON - An $11 million investment in local housing projects will help get people off the streets in Vernon, government officials, local agencies and advocates said today.

B.C. Housing minister Selina Robinson unveiled plans for two modular housing projects, a 53-unit supportive housing complex and a 45-bed shelter operated by the John Howard Society. Vernon is the second B.C. community after Vancouver to use modular housing in the battle against homelessness.

The shelter is expected to open in early 2018 at 2307 43 Street and is aimed at bringing people off the street and indoors as soon as possible. The supportive housing complex will be located at 27 Avenue and 35 Street and is designed for individuals transitioning out of homelessness. It will include 24-hour a day supports for residents.

"These modular projects will make an incredible difference in the lives of vulnerable people in the city who are struggling to find and maintain stable housing,” Robinson said.

Jacob Philp, Housing Minister Selina Robinson, Mayor Akbal Mund and Coun. Juliette Cunningham.
Jacob Philp, Housing Minister Selina Robinson, Mayor Akbal Mund and Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

Vernon city councillor Juliette Cunningham teared up speaking at today’s press conference.

“We celebrate every unit we get, so this announcement today is monumental, it really is,” Cunningham said, thanking all the people and organizations that have been part of the solution. “It’s not been easy but we don’t give up. This is what happens when you don’t give up.”

Vernon council has continually lobbied the provincial government for funding targetted at homelessness issues for the past several years. 

Cunningham said the key to addressing homelessness is to provide a spectrum of housing, from shelters to low-priced market housing. The long-time advocate for social issues said opening up more affordable housing will be the next big piece of the puzzle, but believes a new memorandum of understanding with the provincial government, signed at today’s press conference, will make that easier to accomplish.

Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund touched on the milestone announcement with a special tribute to Robinson. "Here's to you, Minister Robinson," Mund sang to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson, "Vernon loves you more than you will know."

One of the speakers at today's event was Jacob Philp, who beat his addiction and is now helping others as a residential worker at one of Vernon's shelters. He shared his story and personal experience of how the John Howard Society and B.C. Housing gave him his life back. 

"A year ago I was in the throes of my addiction, on the streets of Kelowna and close to death. At that time, I was in dire need of the services offered by the John Howard Society and B.C. Housing," he said. "Fast forward to today, and here I am, healthy, happy, clean and sober and starting a career with the John Howard Society."

When asked if the province plans on rolling out modular housing anywhere else in the Okanagan, Minister Robinson said the government continues to work with a number of communities across B.C. to determine locations for additional modular housing but would not offer any specifics.

Vernon Mayor Mund and Minister Selina Robinson sign a Memorandum of Understanding.
Vernon Mayor Mund and Minister Selina Robinson sign a Memorandum of Understanding.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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