Emergency Food Action Network, Hoarding Response Action Team, Supports for Sex Trade Workers, Address Wait Time for Income Assistance, Women’s Only Drop in Center, Community Dental Access Center Committee, COOL Team, Non Profit Housing Business Plans, Supporting Upper Room Mission, Ensuring continuation of Street Nurse/Street Clinic Program, Create a Downtown Primary Care Center, Secure Shelter Services in Downtown Core
Emergency Food Action Network
The Emergency Food Action Network is a coalition of community representatives working collectively to share information and resources to address emergency food issues in the North Okanagan. The Society joined this committee in mid 2014 due to ongoing food resources concerns. We continue to work with this group and the faith community to share resources and address food security issues.
The Camp Okanagan Outreach/Liaison Team formed in January 2009 to create a protocol between the By-laws Department and the social services outreach workers to better deal with homeless camps within municipal parks and property. By March 2009, a protocol had been written and agreed upon along with supporting documents, an new outreach team (the COOL team) was created that includes by-law officers, and a database system has been set up to monitor camps in the areas. The goals of the protocol include: engaging with campers and preventing problems before they occur, linking campers to services, minimizing stress when camps are decommissioned and increasing safety for the wider public using the parks. The COOL team did an outreach exercise in June 2009 so the community has baseline data on the number and location of camps in the Vernon area. This process is repeated twice a year in spring and fall. Between 2009 and 2016 Vernon had seen a reduction in homeless camps from thirty to approximately three. In 2017 the housing vacancy rate in Vernon fell to approx. one percent and the housing/rental rates rose to a level that is not achievable by many people working minimum wage or on disability assistance. 2017’s October homelessness census identified 152 people living homeless in Vernon. These people were in homeless shelters, women’s transition house, living outside and in addiction’s recovery programs. Today the Society continues to lead the COOL Team which meets regularly to assess the gaps in services for citizens in extreme poverty and work towards effective wrap around services.
Address Wait Time for Income Assistance
In April 2012 Service Providers started reporting that clients in crisis are having trouble accessing income assistance benefits since the changeover to a new computerized system called Integrated Case Management (ICM). The action team organized a series of meetings with the Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation (MSDSI) and service providers to address this issue
As a result of this action team, MSDSI set up a pilot project to ensure that service providers working with clients in crisis are linked directly to intake workers in order to connect clients to income assistance benefits. The pilot project was tested in the spring of 2013 and service providers reported an improvement. Clients began receiving supports within 48 hours as opposed to weeks and/or months.
Supports for Sex Trade Workers
In the spring of 2012 a Partners in Action team was created to look at the services available to women in the sex trade and to create protocols between services, agencies and businesses that may come in contact with this population. The action team approached stakeholders (such as the RCMP, Probation, and the Downtown Vernon Association) to develop protocols with a goal to connect sex trade workers to services and to provide support to businesses who may be impacted by sex trade activity. A partnership has been developed between the Cammy LaFleur Street Nurse Outreach Program, Interior Health, the Society and the Upper Room Mission to reinstate a support program that is designed specifically for women in the sex trade. The Cammy LaFleur Street Nurse Outreach Program agreed to host the program with no additional funding sources in place.
Women’s Only Drop in Center
In the summer of 2011, a group of service providers met to identify the gaps that were created by the closing of the Vernon Women’s Centre Society. A number of agencies stepped forward and took on extra programming (without additional funding) to ensure women’s needs are being met. By the fall of 2011 Independent Living Vernon was providing space and the Society and Vernon Women’s Transition Society (VWTS) and were providing the staffing for a women’s only drop in program. In the summer of 2013 the Society and VWTS stopped providing staffing due to budget restraints. In the spring of 2014 the Vernon Upper Room Mission Society renovated their basement and took on the program which continues to run today.
Community Dental Access Center Committee
In early 2011 the Society joined a committee aimed at creating a free-low cost dental care for low income families and individuals. The clinic opened for business in mid 2013. The clinic will accept government dental plans, without balance billing. The clinic will take patients in urgent need with no money suffering with infection and abscess and provide extractions regardless of client’s ability to pay. There is help for street-entrenched populations with the assistance of Outreach Workers to get clients to their appointments. Preventive services are also provided, along with chronic disease management, tobacco cessation, sealant clinics, etc. College of Hygiene gives collage education points for volunteering, especially if it coincides with education.
Hoarding Response Action Team
The manager of the By-law Department requested that the Partners in Action review a new model for responding to hoarders that has been set up in Vancouver to see if a similar model can be used in Vernon. Hoarding can lead to issues with fire, safety, neighbourhood complaints as well as potential eviction by landlord. A meeting of stakeholders including the Society took place in December 2013 to create a Vernon based model for better supporting people who have a tendency to hoard.
Supporting Upper Room Mission
A “Partners in Action” team was formed in February 2008 in recognition that the Upper Room Mission (URM) was in need of financial and programming support in order to handle the number of people in poverty accessing their services. By March 2008, a meeting was held with various service providers to brainstorm ways to support the URM. Short and long term solutions were identified and subsequent meetings were held to implement solutions. By September 2008 the Society entered into a food services agreement with the URM to provide seventy five meals a day, seven days a week. That food services contract continues today.
Secure Shelter Services in Downtown Core
A “Partners in Action” team formed in January of 2007. In May 2007, the Society began negotiations with BC Housing. By November 2007, temporary shelters were opened for men and women and a commitment was received from BC Housing to provide ongoing permanent funding for 24 hour shelter services. By January 2008, BC Housing purchased the “Chinese Free Masons” building in downtown Vernon and contracted to the Society to run a men’s and women’s program.