Vernon News

More homeless people arrive in Vernon every week: officials

Vernon bylaw officers talk to a homeless man in Polson Park, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2019.

Between five and 10 homeless people arrive in Vernon each week says City of Vernon officials.

Manager of protective services Geoff Gaucher said bylaw officers and the RCMP have seen a recent influx of homeless people arriving in the city with around five to 10 people turning up each week.

"I believe they are coming from areas without services," Gaucher said.

Gaucher said one individual told him they'd left Golden as there were no services for them. He said the situation is similar in other small towns across B.C.

"(If) you end up homeless because of some personal catastrophe... (and) there are no facilities there... you would come to a place where you've got a street clinic and mental health workers, and the (Upper Room) Mission and some social provided housing," he said.

Statistics from the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan's annual homeless census shows the number of homeless people living in Vernon has climbed gradually over the last three years from 144 in 2016 to 153 in 2017 and 161 in 2018.

The 2019 census took place Oct. 16 although numbers have yet to be finalized.

"So far we are not seeing a huge jump from last year," Social Planning Council executive director Annette Sharkey said. "So I'm not anticipating that we have a huge increase in the number of people."

Sharkey said each year the census shows that around 30 per cent of homeless people questioned had arrived in the city in the last year, although the number of people who are homeless does not increase by 30 per cent each year. Just like any other demographic, people move elsewhere and some find housing.

Upper Room Mission Society general manager Naomi Rouck said she had heard from community partners that new people were arriving in Vernon.

"It is difficult for us to see whether or not we're engaging these same new faces because we always see new faces," Rouck said. "Sometimes that is a family that comes in to access our services for a few weeks then they're gone, or it might be some of our seasonal workers, like fruit pickers. I can't say that I'm seeing the same new faces that bylaw and the RCMP say they new seeing, we always see new faces."

It would appear more homeless people living in the city would put more pressure on social services.

"As for being able to accommodate more people coming into the community, the Mission runs solely off donations, so we're able to operate because we have so much community support, from small bakeries to large grocery stores, that donate food to us daily," Rouck said. "Based on those donations we continue to operate and we continue to provide meals to those who need it."

Gaucher described cutting services to discourage people from coming to Vernon as a "knee jerk reaction."

"There's needs to be involvement from senior levels of government," Gaucher said. "There needs to be some treatment, there needs to be some mental health facilities... there needs to be some addictions counselling."

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