Vernon trying to support homeless people after camps decommissioned | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon trying to support homeless people after camps decommissioned

A homeless camp in Vernon, Oct. 24, 2016.
November 09, 2016 - 3:30 PM

VERNON - Several homeless camps are being shut down in Vernon and local agencies are trying to support them.

The Camp Okanagan Outreach Liaison Team, which includes City of Vernon bylaw and the John Howard Society, is working to connect homeless campers with support services, according to a release from the city.

Homeless camps have grown in recent months, and a recent census found more than 30 people sleeping outside.

According to the city, the decision to decommission the camps comes after they ensured space was available at local shelters.

Bylaw officers and local social agencies worked throughout the summer and into the fall to ensure the safety of the camps set up in Vernon, including making sure the camps were clean, that there were no fires or dangerous materials and that the inhabitants were aware of support services, according to the release. But the city no longer has the seasonal help to provide that support, and without those resources, “maintaining the health and well-being of these camps, as well as the general public, is difficult” the city says.

The city’s manager of protective services, Clint Kanester, says the main focus throughout the process has been the health and safety of campers, and connecting them with support services.

“We can’t force that, however. So while we may look to decommission a specific camp, we are aware that a new camp may begin somewhere else in Vernon. We will continue to monitor and to provide support as much as we can, encouraging the users to participate in the programs available,” Kanester says.

Meanwhile, Annette Sharkey of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan, says they are aware of people in the community collecting items to hand out to campers. Several groups have taken to social media over the past few days to organize efforts.

“We recommend that these donations be provided to John Howard Society or Upper Room Mission, because this helps to protect the dignity and privacy of people in the camps and provides safety for those wanting to donate,” Sharkey says.

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