North Okanagan group has plans to provide shopping carts to homeless people - InfoNews

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North Okanagan group has plans to provide shopping carts to homeless people

FILE PHOTO: An overflowing shopping cart sits in the parking lot of the Upper Room Mission on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.
January 22, 2018 - 8:30 PM

VERNON - A non-profit group in the North Okanagan has come up with an idea it hopes will reduce the number of shopping carts being stolen from businesses.

The plan is to give carts to people who rely on them, so they don’t need to steal them in the first place.

Annette Sharkey, the executive director of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan, says the Shopping Cart Action team will be approaching local grocery stores in hopes of getting used carts donated to the program.

“What we’re looking for is a grocery store in transition, or bringing in new carts and decommissioning some of their old carts,” Sharkey says.

The issue of stolen shopping carts isn’t new, and isn’t unique to Vernon.

Last summer in Kamloops, police received multiple complaints about stolen carts from businesses, and in Kelowna in 2016 the city cracked down and confiscated numerous stolen carts after receiving complaints.

In Vernon, it’s not uncommon to see shopping carts abandoned where they ought not to be, or filled with someone’s possessions. One grocery store tells stolen shopping carts are definitely a problem, but declined an interview. The employee indicated carts cost between $200 and $350, so the thefts add up.

“The vision is to have a fleet of non-profit shopping carts and help provide carts for folks who are homeless,” Sharkey says of the new program.

The carts would be distinguishable from grocery store property, possibly with the help of a local artist, Sharkey says.

She says they wanted to find a solution that met everyone’s needs.

“We always want to be proactive when we hear how a social issue may be having a ripple effect in the community,” Sharkey says. “It’s about supporting the folks who are homeless, but also reducing the impacts on the wider community.”

However, she points out that stolen shopping carts aren’t just a homelessness problem.

“In our research we found other populations were struggling with ways to transport groceries,” Sharkey says. “People that are maybe living close to a grocery store but don’t have a vehicle, it might be challenging to get their groceries home.”

Because of the high cost of carts, Sharkey says they aren’t in a position to buy new ones. That’s why they’re hoping a grocery store will work with them the next time they replace or decommission old carts.

“It could be a bit of a waiting game, but it would be a starting point,” she says.

RELATED LINK: Social media mixup benefits homeless man with inspirational message

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