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Not enough shelter space to warm Vernon’s homeless population

At least 100 people are sleeping outside in Vernon, according to bylaw
Turning Points Collaborative Society’s 86-bed year-round shelter isn’t enough to house Vernon’s homeless population over the cold winter months. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star file photo)

With winter weather arriving early, there are currently more people living rough than there are shelter beds in Vernon.

Turning Points Collaborative Society has an 86-bed year-round shelter, but according to executive director Randene Wejr, bylaw has reported that there are at least 100 people sleeping outside in Vernon right now.

“We do not have enough affordable housing, rentals or shelter spaces at this time. I am not aware of any other emergency or temporary spaces other than our 86 bed shelter,” Wejr told The Morning Star.

Turning Points has added a warming bus that operates between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. in the city, which is available for people to warm up, get a hot drink and a snack.

Vernon lacks the temporary shelter spaces that are cropping up across the province. So far this season, the province, through BC Housing, has funded approximately 2,080 temporary winter shelter spaces and more than 480 extreme weather response shelters (spaces that open overnight when a community issues an extreme weather alert, such as during cold temperatures, snow, heavy rain or significant wind).

Most of these temporary spaces are open and the remainder will open in the coming weeks, according to a press release from the Ministry of Attorney General issued Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The ministry says BC Housing will continue to work with shelter providers and municipalities to open additional shelter spaces in communities where there is need. So far this year, Vernon has not seen any support in opening additional temporary shelters.

Shelter programs are made possible by partnerships with communities and non-profit groups to provide immediate places to stay for anyone who is experiencing or is at risk of homelessness.

“While the province has invested in thousands of shelter spaces and new supportive homes, there is an urgent need for more permanent housing spaces. There are 2,300 new supportive homes underway throughout B.C., and BC Housing continues to work with municipalities, health authorities and throughout government to create more permanent solutions that address people’s unique needs,” reads the release.

The province is investing $633 million in new initiatives over three years. The initiatives are aimed at helping to prevent and reduce chronic homelessness and include $164 million ove rthree years to expand the government’s complex care housing program, helping B.C.’s most vulnerable people with complex health, mental health and substance-use issues who need a level of support that goes beyond what the current supportive housing model can provide.

READ MORE: ‘We are tired of the futility’: Okanagan shelters call for changes to homelessness response

READ MORE: Homelessness in Kelowna tripled in size in the last year: Bylaw

Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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