British Columbia

'It's overdue': Vernon, B.C., to get new housing for homeless

As the homeless population grows in Vernon, B.C., the province has announced the community will get two new permanent modular housing projects.

Province puts $11M towards permanent modular housing projects as homelessness 'crisis' grows

A homeless man in Vernon was found living in this movable crate outside of local stores in January of 2017. (City of Vernon)

In a move a local homeless man calls "overdue as a matter of fact," Vernon, B.C., is about to become home to a pair of new modular housing units that will support those living on the street. 

The North Okanagan city has been struggling to keep up with a growing homeless population that's grown to 153 as per last month's count. 

"Everyone in the community can see that there is a critical need to help people who are experiencing homelessness and to help the communities that are grappling with just how to respond to the crisis," said Selina Robinson, B.C.'s minister of municipal affairs and housing.

$11M for two modular housing projects

In Vernon on Wednesday, Robinson announced the province will allocate approximately $11 million towards two permanent modular housing projects in the community.

A 45-bed building will expand capacity at the current homeless shelter at Howard House. And, a 53-unit supportive housing project will be located on land owned by B.C. Housing at 27th Avenue and 35th Street.

"We applaud the province's efforts to create more safe and secure housing options that support some of Vernon's most vulnerable citizens," said Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund.

"I do believe it's definitely needed here. The homeless population has outgrown Vernon," said Glen Williams, a long-time Vernon resident currently living out of his car.

Glen Williams has lived in Vernon for 28 years, but is currently sleeping in his car because he feels unsafe in local parks and the local shelter is full. (Brady Strachan/ CBC)

'A really difficult situation'

"Generally, I try to sleep in church parking lots. There's not a lot of places that city bylaw or the RCMP will actually allow us to camp out."

"It's a really difficult situation," he said.

Another homeless man identified only as Bear said a lack of housing and addiction problems are two major obstacles to getting off the street.

"I think [the modular housing] will put a dent in it, but I don't think it will help fully," he said.

A 27-year-old homeless man says the modular housing projects are only a partial solution to getting everyone off the streets. (Brady Strachan/ CBC)

The modular housing units are self-contained and include a kitchen and a washroom, but are not scheduled to open until 2018.

Similar projects were also announced for Prince Rupert and Terrace.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South and Brady Strachan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jaimie Kehler is a web writer, producer and broadcaster based in Kelowna, B.C. She has also worked for CBC News in Toronto and Ottawa. To contact her with a story, email jaimie.kehler@cbc.ca.

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