Annette Sharkey of the Social Planning Council provides latest homeless numbers to Vernon council Tuesday (Kate Bouey photo)
The latest homeless census for Vernon is slightly higher than a year ago.
Annette Sharkey from the Social Planning Council told city council this morning, their team members counted 161 homeless as of the end of October.
That includes people staying at the shelters, and seen in homeless camps.
It’s 8 more than the 153 counted in October 2017.
Sharkey says the Partners in Action Committee have conducted the census in the fall since 2016.
“The census is showing similar numbers to last fall but with some small shifts in terms of whether people were inside or outside,” said Sharkey. There were also 10 people in hospital who identified as homeless. The census is not a definitive number as it would be easy to miss a few people sleeping outside due to the movement of people who are homeless, but it does give a sense of the scope of the problem and helps track trends.”
Fourty people were seen sleeping outside in Oct. 2018,compared to 44 year ago and 33 in 2016.
The highest number, 53, were residing at the Howard House shelter.
Fifty percent of the individuals say they either grew up in Vernon or have family here.
Sixty-five percent were male, 4 percent female and 4% indicated transgender/other.
The average age for sleeping outside was 43 years for men and 34 for woman.
Average age in the shelters was 47 for both men and woman.
“The demographics are comparable with national averages, with the major of people who are homeless being men, and at least one third having been in the foster care system,” says Sharkey.
Thirty four percent of the homeless were aboriginal.
Sharkey says affordable housing stock has increased in Vernon by 30 percent since 2008, “but as you can see we definitely need more”
“There is a lot more affordable housing coming to Vernon within the next year. We are hopeful more announcements will be made soon as our community is well-organized, extremely collaborative and continues to apply for more units.”
She says at least 3 local organizations have applied for grants from BC Housing.
Sharkey points to the beds available but expresses hope that Vernon will be getting funding from the federal government.
She met last week with MP Mel Arnold who is supporting efforts to have Vernon declared a “designated community” which should bring in federal dollars.
As far as affordable housing, councillor Akbal Mund said about 175 units were coming on line in the new year but Vernon needed to “fight for more.”
“Your leadership, is going to help Vernon be one of the communities to help,” says Mund.
Mayor Victor Cumming says new accommodation “couldn’t happen fast enough.”
(With files from Kate Bouey)