March 26, 2019 5:58 pm
Updated: March 26, 2019 9:02 pm

New pet-friendly Vernon shelter features more storage, space for couples

Watch: A new 46 bed shelter is opening in Vernon this week. It includes features that might help tackle some of the city's long standing issues with homeless camps, open drug use and shopping carts abandoned in public places.

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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.

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“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.”

READ MORE: Vernon homeless count on the rise

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.

A box for depositing used needles in the “safe-use” room at the new shelter.

Megan Turcato / Global News

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.

READ MORE: Return of homeless camp in Vernon highlights need for more housing options

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.

The new facility is expected to help replace Howard House (pictured), which is expected to close its transitional housing and shelter beds.

Jim Douglas / Global News

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