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Vernon  

Shelter from the storm

"Citizens sleeping rough" is Kelly Fehr's preferred term for those living without shelter. 

Fehr is the co-executive director at the John Howard Society, which oversees two shelters in Vernon — Howard House and Gateway Homeless Shelter. 

The two group homes are currently at capacity. The winter storm battering the Okanagan is making the decision to sleep outdoors one of life and death. 

"I have seen significantly fewer people in camps of late," Fehr said. "Right now we have 79 people sleeping at the Howard House and 38 at Gateway," which is a total of 37 people over capacity for both places.

The society's outreach staff has been engaging with the "citizens sleeping rough" in Vernon, and Fehr believes that has helped to get many of them indoors.

"When weather like this hits, people don't camp where they normally do. You'll find people sleeping in underpasses and doorways."    

According to a community survey published in October, there were 153 people counted as homeless in Vernon. One of the three main factors cited as a cause of homelessness in Vernon was a lack of "supported housing to accommodate the number of people who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness."

Work is being done to address this issue. In November the province announced plans to "build a new, permanent modular-housing project, which will provide 53 beds for people transitioning out of homelessness." 

As for the need for shelter during this storm, Fehr said they are expecting extra mats from BC Housing, but he doesn't know when they will arrive.



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