Business owners in downtown Vernon are again calling for action to deal with crime and safety issues with the street-entrenched population.
A meeting this week brought together merchants, and officials from Interior Health, BC Housing and Turning Points Collaborative Society which operates local shelters.
Merchants raised issues of drug use, litter, vandalism, loitering, property crime, aggressive behaviour and concerns about customer safety.
The meeting was organized by Vicki Eide, owner of Dean’s Tailor Shop, as a result of BC Housing and Turning Points establishing a housing facility next to the Gateway shelter.
“It was important to meet with BC Housing to fully understand the scope of the new temporary facility and the services that will be provided. We want to keep downtown safe not only for the business community, but for those that are on the street,” says Eide.
The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is calling on the City, RCMP and provincial agencies for increased dialogue with the businesses and non profit service providers to address the concerns.
The chamber would also like the City to improve lighting, particularly in the area of 33rd Street and Coldstream Avenue.
“The business owners are extremely compassionate towards those truly in need and many have established personal relationships with these individuals. However, the business owners are faced with a situation with a criminal element downtown that is increasingly tense,” said Dione Chambers, Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce general manager. “They are not only concerned about the safety of themselves and their customers, but the safety of those who are in need and can fall victim to a negative element.”
Representatives from BC Housing stated they would approach the City of Vernon and the RCMP about security concerns near the shelter and temporary housing.
“BC Housing and Turning Points assured those at the meeting that the housing facility on 33rd Street is temporary until the new My Place apartments open at 27th Avenue and 35th Street in the spring,” says a news release from the Chamber. “The occupants of the temporary housing facility will have come out of the Gateway shelter and they will be selected through an application process. They will have access to meals and laundry on site, and occupants will have to sign agreements relating to proper behaviour.”
BC Housing has leased the building on 33rd Street until the end of March and is not speculating on future uses for the building.
Pictured: Gateway Shelter on 33rd Street