The Social Planning Council is throwing its backing behind the Activate Safety report released at Vernon Council yesterday.
Spokesperson Annette Sharkey says many of the recommendations such as closer relationships between the RCMP and bylaws, more public washrooms and generally more resources are all issues it supports
Part of the current problem could be traced to a lower vacancy rate for housing.
“We suddenly got this increase in the number of people outside. Some of those businesses just got really frustrated with what was happening and so there definitely was a breakdown there.”
She agrees with the report that it’s a small group involved in violence and aggression, which she says is not okay and does need to be addressed.
The role of the Social Planning Council is to mobilize the community to address social issues.
The driving force of the organization is the Partners in Action Committee who problem solve, set up action teams, and then follow through on solutions.
The Committee understands the fear, anger and frustration that some local businesses have experienced as a result of the lack of shelter beds and the need for more treatment and recovery programs.
It is not okay that people are forced to sleep in alleys and doorways or that businesses have to clean up feces and garbage every morning.
Many non-profits have also been directly impacted by these issues and agree on the need to address this problem.
Annette Sharkey says it’s important the community keeps working together and Partner’s in Action can help.
“I mean this Activate Safety task force was very clear, they’re working on immediate problems. We definitely want to be part of the solution, so, we’re looking for ways to work with the city around the short term.”
Over the longer term, Partners in Action is working to bring affordable housing to the community.
“That is, That’s the solution. And we know we’ve been here before. We’ve faced this crisis before and we’ve successfully brought people inside and we know we can do this again.”
Sharkey says it’s important to get businesses and service providers back to the table talking to each other to find concrete solutions in the short term.
Jan Shumay, Vice Chair of the Social Planning Council says some businesses believe that shelters and programs attract people and are the cause of the problem, but say the data does not support this perception.
Between 2009 and 2015, the wider community was not directly impacted by homelessness, even though there were at least 100 people without a home on any given night.
That’s because people were inside and provided with stability and supports.
Shelters and housing protect the wider community by ensuring that people are not forced to sleep in alleys, doorways and parks.
Shumay goes on to say Partners in Action is ready to work closely with bylaw and RCMP officers in enforcement of laws.
Meanwhile it notes a need for more information in regards to substance use issues and the opioid crisis.
The Social Planning Council has arranged a presentation from Interior Health to City Council on July 23, 2018, to provide information and updates on current strategies and to answer any follow up questions.