Homeless camp on Hwy 97

Chantelle Deacon

A homeless camp that caused a stir throughout the community of Vernon earlier this year appears to have sprung back up.

The camp, located just off Highway 97 and 48th Avenue, is visible from the highway and consists of tents, trash, carts and other unidentifiable items.

Recently the province, in partnership with the City of Vernon, announced the addition of roughly 40 short-term beds.

Turning Points Collaborative, the operator of the Gateway shelter, will manage the new project called Compass, providing residents with 24/7 support.

"Our goal is to open up Compass so that we can provide a space for individuals that are in line to go into housing," said Kelly Fehr, Turning Points', co-executive director. "It's to hold them in a safe place until they can get into more permanent housing."

The area of the highway where the homeless camp is located is owned by the province.

Castanet reached out to the Ministry of Transportation to see what is being done about the homeless camp and they replied with this email response:

Peoples’ safety is our top priority and this includes individuals or groups located near our provincial roadways. Camping on a highway right of way is not safe for campers or drivers.  The area next to a highway is even more dangerous in winter weather and may impede snow removal.
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and outreach staff will continue to inform campers of these dangers and are considering next steps to help people transition from the camp to safer locations. Outreach is continually reaching out and providing shelter as it becomes available.
The Province and the City of Vernon have partnered to open 40 new shelters beds this month, and more are opening in December. These beds are a bridge to long-term housing until Vernon’s new 52-unit supportive homes at 3500 27th Avenue are completed Spring 2019. Additionally, construction is nearing completion for a new 46-unit shelter at 2307 - 43rd Street which is expected to open in January 2019.

The Ministry of Transportation has also left eviction notices on the premises.

"The sole purpose really behind it is we know that there is a significant portion of individuals living on the streets in poverty and homelessness," Fehr said. "There are not enough shelter beds."

"With these three projects, we will see a significant dent in the number of individuals sleeping outside."

The beds at Compass are an interim measure until spring 2019, when a new 52-unit permanent supportive housing project, announced by the Province in November 2017, is expected to open at 3500 - 27th Ave. and 2600 - 35th St.

Construction is also nearing completion for 46 new shelter beds at 2307 - 43rd St. This project is expected to open in December 2018.

-With files from Josh Winquist

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