Vernon RCMP says they have responded to calls from Enlighten Hair & Tanning Salon next to the Gateway Shelter about unwanted people on the property.
Constable Kelly Brett says there have been 9 calls for service this year and all have been answered and people who were asked to leave did so.
Owner Ed Kendall said in an open letter that police sometimes do not respond.
He’s moving his business in September because he says he’s fed up with having problems.
Constable Brett says if he continues to have problems, he’s encouraged to call and police will respond.
Below is the statement from Constable Brett.
“It is my understanding you received a letter addressed to you outlining the concerns of Mr. Kendall and the frustrations he is having over the homelessness issue surrounding his business.
In that letter, he briefly mentions that a security company advised him “police sometimes don’t even show up when they’re called”.
Since January of 2018, the Vernon RCMP have received 9 calls for service for the address associated to Mr.Kendall’s business, all of which were attended to by the RCMP.
When responding to calls for service, RCMP police officers assess each situation individually, based on the totality of the circumstances, including situational factors and the person’s behaviour. Based on this assessment, officers conduct their response as appropriate.
Of the 9 calls for service since January to Mr. Kendall’s business, 4 of the calls were as a result of un-wanted persons on the property, where police attended and subjects departed without incident.
Police do not have the right to remove homeless people who are encamped without the legal authority of an injunction or other myriad of authorities which differ around the country and are often individualized to the situation.
Mr. Kendall raises the concern of frequently having to chase people off his property, who are becoming more aggressive. We would encourage him to continue to call the RCMP if he has any concerns and our officers will respond accordingly.
I can say that the safety of the public remains a priority of the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP.
Cst. Kelly BRETT
Media Relations Officer
Vernon North Okanagan RCMP / Government of Canada
UPDATE July 6 by Pete McIntyre
Vernon’s mayor says he understands the frustrations of a business owner who is fed up with the street entrenched population, and plans to move.
Akbal Mund was reacting to news the owner of a hair salon next to the Gateway Shelter will be moving this fall, due to what Ed Kendall says is an increase in trouble over the years, and what he feels is more lax rules by the shelter.
Mund feels there likely are more transients coming to the city.
“Again, is it getting worse, I can’t comment on that. You know there’ll be more people definitely just like there’s more people coming to Vernon for vacation and what not there’ll be other people come to town too.”
He says a task force on the issue will be presenting its recommendations to council next week, which should shed light on some possible solutions.
“Well, I’m sure other, different government bodies will be included in some of the decisions that we have to make, but you know we’ll take a look at it and we’ll see what those recommendations are. Some will probably be simple. Some will be time consuming and require dollars from the taxpayer. If that’s the will of the taxpayer, we’ll find out.”
He says the city will need help from other levels of government to find solutions.
Ed Kendall, who owns Enlighten Hair & Tanning Salon, says he’ll be moving to the Discovery Plaza in September.
Mund says he and Ed Kendall haven’t spoken about the issue and says while it’s Kendall’s decision to move, he’s not sure moving to the Discovery Plaza will eliminate his problems as there are street-entrenched people in that area as well.
Kelly Fehr from Turning Points, which operates Gateway Shelter, says many marginalized people have been forced into the downtown core by the housing crisis and the closure of homeless camps.
The Co-Executive Director of Turning Points Collaborative Society, which operates Vernon’s Gateway Shelter, says he understands the frustration of a the owner of a business next to the shelter who is fed up dealing with street-entrenched people.
Ed Kendall says he is moving His Enlighten Hair & Tanning Salon in September to get away from the transient problem he’s facing.
Kelly Fehr agrees many marginalized people have been forced into the downtown core by the housing crisis and the closure of homeless camps.
He says staff at the shelter encourage people not to loiter within a two block radius of the shelter.
But he adds it’s legal to stand on a sidewalk and it’s a jurisdiction the shelter has no authority over.
Fehr says the shelter is a 24 hour a day operation and people with problematic substance use conditions have always been able to access the shelter this has never changed.
Following is the text of Kelly Fehr’s response to our request for comment.
Prior to Gateway Shelter opening in September 2008 there were concerns from the downtown business community around the impacts of homelessness in the downtown specifically in the lot were the BMO bank now stands. There was a large encampment on that property for some time. When Gateway opened Vernon saw the number of homeless camps go from 30 down to 3 over the span of approximately one and half years. This is mostly due to the fact the housing vacancy rates were high and Gateway was able to assist people in finding and maintaining housing.
One month after Gateway opened Ed was interviewed by CHBC Global and stated he was very happy with how the shelter had helped clean up the neighbourhood.
With respect to Ed’s press release the shelter has always been a 24hr operation from the day it opened. Registration for new clients still typically starts at 5pm unless staff have the time to complete an intake earlier in the day and it is beneficial to the client. We do encourage people not to loiter within a two block radius, but it is legal for housed or non-housed people to stand on the sidewalk. This is not a jurisdiction we have authority over. People with problematic substance use conditions have always been able to access the shelter this has never changed.
Gateway Shelter has done a good job of hiding the ugliness of poverty, homelessness, severe and persistent mental health issues and addiction from the downtown core for years. Maybe we were to effective. Over the last two years we have been struggling to help people find housing as the cost of housing skyrocketed. It is at the point people on minimum wage, disability assistance or income assistance have very few options. Since the housing vacancy rates dropped down to one percent we were no longer able to find people housing with the exception of the odd rooming house or our own internal housing stock. The housing crisis has forced countless people into the streets and parks to live. Ed and the other downtown businesses were exposed to the ugliness of poverty and homelessness once (due to public pressure) the City of Vernon forced people from the places they were camping. Consequently many of these marginalized people were pushed into the downtown core.
As a result of pushing houseless people from one location to another and the lack of housing Turning Points worked with BC Housing to increase temporary winter shelter spaces at both Gateway and the Men’s Shelter located at 2307 43ave. 20 of those 33 extra spaces have closed and those people who were sheltered are on the street yet again. Thankfully with the City of Vernon’s support BC Housing has invested in a new shelter Our Place which is expected to open August 10, 2018. Once that is open we will be able to provide shelter to those who are unable to secure housing. BC Housing and Turning Points will also be opening a fully supported, affordable apartment complex in February 2019. These two projects will be beneficial to Vernon which does not receive any federal dollars towards housing initiatives.
I have personally worked closely with Ed for years and understand his frustration. Daily our staff are in positions to not only see the ugliness of poverty and homelessness, but to listen to the stories, be a shoulder to cry on, help with trauma, employment, mental health and addictions needs. It is through strong and healthy relationships between the business community and non-government agencies that we can make change. Turning Points Collaborative Society which operates employment, housing, supported housing, addictions recovery and shelter services stands along side all citizens and businesses in Vernon and says enough is enough. We need solutions and we need to collaborate to identify them and secure the funds/supports needed to achieve them.
Co-Executive Director, Turning Points
The owner of a business located next to the Gateway Shelter in Vernon has had enough of what he says are chronic problems with street people and plans to move in September.
Ed Kendall, who owns Enlighten Hair & Tanning Salon at 2804 – 33rd Street, says the salon has suffered an increase in trouble over the years, which he believes is due to rules at the Shelter that seem to have become more lax and the influx of seasonal transients increases.
Kendall says he frequently has to chase people off his property and roust them from his doorway in the morning.
He says he’s had a knife pulled on him and staff have had to walk people back to their vehicles.
Originally Kendall was planning to buy the building.
“It’s not that I want to move, we’ve been here for 18 years and we were going to buy the place and stay here for the future, but I’m losing customers and I’ve had enough.”
Kendall says he’s frustrated with the city and police, whom he feels don’t seem to want to do anything.
“All I’ve heard the mayor say is that we have to get used to it because the city can’t do anything about it. And our security company tells me the police sometimes don’t even show up when they’re called.”
He also claims people come and go from the Gateway Shelter all hours of the day and there seems to be no control.
“We were promised that check in would be 5 p.m. and that everyone would have to check out at 9 a.m. We were told that no clients would be allowed to hang around within two blocks of the shelter and that no one would be allowed in if they were drunk or stoned. And for the first few years everything was fine. But now it seems like there are no rules at all. People are coming and going at all hours and no one is doing anything about it.”
Kendall adds it’s not just the shelter but there seem to be new, more aggressive people in town.
The Salon will relocate to Discovery Plaza on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018, at #7 – 3100 35th Street (behind the downtown Safeway).
CJIB News has reached out to the Mayor, RCMP and the operators of the Gateway Shelter for comment.