Volunteer group aims to make life a little easier for women on the streets of Vernon | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Volunteer group aims to make life a little easier for women on the streets of Vernon

HOPE volunteers in Kelowna.
Image Credit: HOPE Okanagan Facebook
September 29, 2017 - 8:00 PM

VERNON - A group founded in Kelowna years ago to help women on the streets is expanding to Vernon.

Co-founder of H.O.P.E. Outreach Angie Lohr says they’ve been wanting to open in Vernon for a long time, but only recently found someone willing to coordinate the volunteer-run initiative.

Trained volunteers will set off on foot at dusk Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights to deliver necessities like shampoo, toothpaste, condoms and harm reduction supplies to women experiencing homelessness, addiction, or exploitation in the sex trade.

“I see the need in the whole Okanagan,” Lohr says. “Services are mostly open Monday to Friday. We need to have people out there on the weekend.”

Lohr, a recovered drug addict and former sex trade worker, helped start H.O.P.E. Outreach in 2008 as a way to give back, and help women who are still on the street.

Volunteers keep track of the women and girls they meet, and Lohr says in Kelowna there are currently about 65 women on the street. Because the program is just getting started in Vernon, she couldn’t say how many women might benefit from the new outreach service.

“I’m almost afraid Vernon will have more,” she says, based on her own observations.

Lohr says some women move throughout the Okanagan Valley, so she’s already seen some familiar faces in Vernon. She reached out to some of those women recently to show her around the city and tell her where volunteers should go to find people. She says the women and girls she met on that informal walkabout gave her a warm welcome.

In her experience in Kelowna, she’s encountered girls as young as 14 and women in their 60s. She says she’s also run into women reported as missing.

A full orientation and training will be provided to volunteers before they head out in Vernon, Lohr says. Anyone interested in joining the group is invited to attend an orientation Oct. 1 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the People Place, located at 3402 27 Ave. in Vernon.

More information about H.O.P.E. Outreach can be found online.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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