Several homeless camps in Vernon are in the process of being decommissioned after ensuring that space is available at the John Howard Society and Gateway Shelter.
The Camp Okanagan Outreach Liaison Team (COOL Team), including Vernon bylaw officers and the John Howard Society, are working to connect inhabitants of the camps with support services over the winter months.
The COOL Team worked throughout the summer and into the fall to ensure the safety of the camps set up in Vernon – making certain that the camps were clean, that there were no fires or dangerous materials and that the inhabitants were aware of support services. However, the city no longer has the seasonal help that was instrumental in providing this support. Without those resources, maintaining the health and well-being of these camps, as well as the general public, is difficult.
“The main focus has been the health and safety of campers and connecting them to services, as much as is possible,” said Clint Kanester, Manager of Protective Services for the City of Vernon.
“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.”
“We are aware that members of our community are collecting items for people in homeless camps,” added Annette Sharkey, Executive Director of the Social Planning Council.
“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.”