Shelter workers raise alarm bells after tenth street death | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Shelter workers raise alarm bells after tenth street death

A man died Sunday after falling down a flight of stairs at the Gateway Shelter in Vernon.
January 11, 2014 - 9:43 AM

VERNON - The John Howard Society is mourning yet another client death—an estimated tenth in the past 12 months.

“It just seems like every couple weeks we hear about someone who has died," executive director Barbara Levesque says. "It’s been a really difficult, tragic year for the community.”

Around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, a man in his 50s accidentally fell down a flight of stairs at the Gateway Shelter. He was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital, and then to Kelowna General Hospital, but succumbed to his injuries around 8 p.m. that night. No foul play is suspected, however, the shelter has provided video footage of the incident to the RCMP and B.C. Coroners Service.

The string of fatalities includes a woman who stepped in front of a semi and was killed. In July or August, a homeless man died in Polson Park, undiscovered for perhaps weeks, according to police. Some deaths may be random, but Levesque wants to make sure everything possible is being done. She suspects bad heroin may be responsible for some deaths, but has no other answers. But when 10 people in a demographic die, answers are required.

“We’re so busy, all of us, dealing often with emergency type situations that it’s really important we take pause once in a while to look back at what we’re doing."

She hopes to involve the Ministry of Social Services, Interior Health, and other social service and health agencies.

“We’re going to analyze it. We want to look at everyone (who died), at all the data, the circumstances of the death, and circle of knowledge around each person,” Levesque says. “When tragedy happens, there are lessons to be learned.”

For shelter staff, the deaths have dealt a heavy emotional blow.

“Our objective is to form strong personal relationship with the people we serve. It’s not an arm’s length service. We work closely and intimately with them, so it is very difficult for staff,” Levesque says. “It’s just been a really bad, sad year.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230, or tweet @charhelston.

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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