A new 46-bed shelter opening in Vernon this week will be pet-friendly and accessible and will provide both the opportunity for couples to stay together and more space for residents to store their belongings.
All of these features may help encourage the city’s homeless population to use shelters instead of sleeping rough.
The new shelter, called Our Place, is located next to the current Howard House shelter on 24th Avenue in Vernon.
“The ability to have somewhere that is accessible, pets and couples — those were all three things that we needed to address, and this facility does that,” said Randene Wejr, co-executive director of Turning Points Collaborative Society, which will operate the shelter.
“We want people to come in. We don’t want them to be sleeping rough. Obviously, it is not good for your health, it is not good for your safety, and we want to be able to help people on their first step to wellness.”
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The shelter will also include laundry facilities, provide residents with three meals a day and include what the society describes as a “safe-use site” for residents with drug addictions.
The safe-use site is a room where residents with drug addictions can consume drugs with an element of supervision.
“People are going to use if they are addicted to a substance, and the reality is that we are in an opioid crisis and we want to keep people alive. We want them to use safely. If they are locked away and using in their rooms, that is the highest risk,” said Wejr.
As new beds open, others will close
The plan is for Howard House, which B.C. Housing describes as “aging” and “obsolete,” to close once this new shelter and another 52-unit supportive housing project on 27th Avenue have opened.
“Hopefully, everyone will be housed in one of those two facilities,” said Wejr.
The society is hoping to eventually tear down Howard House, but that will depend on funding as Wejr said there is asbestos in the building that would need to be contained when it is demolished.
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