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Vernon’s mayor hopes for solutions at town hall on crime, vagrancy, open drugs

Vernon is planning its third town hall in less than three years on issues surrounding crime, homelessness and public drug use.
Vernon is planning its third town hall in less than three years on issues surrounding crime, homelessness and public drug use. Global News

It won’t be the first time in recent years that Vernon has held a public meeting to discuss homelessness, crime and drug use.

However, when the public and Vernon’s city council gather at the city’s recreation centre next Tuesday for a town hall on “crime, vagrancy, overdose prevention sites, and open drug use,” the mayor is hoping to hear public suggestions for solutions.

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“Personally, I’m hoping to get some new ideas and some new proposed solutions, both short-term and long-term, things that the city can do and things that maybe some other agencies can do as well,” said Vernon mayor Victor Cumming.

Vernon, like other Okanagan cities, has faced social challenges in recent years as the province confronts both a housing crises and drug overdose crisis.

Last April, the city held a town hall aimed at businesses as part of its Activate Safety Task Force process.

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The task force was charged with making recommendations to city council to “local issues and solutions to homelessness, criminal behavior, addictions, public safety and the impact on the business community.”

READ MORE: Safety task force makes 40 recommendations to Vernon city council

Then in February of this year, as a follow-up to a recommendation by the task force, the city held another public meeting aimed at businesses and service providers on “issues and concerns related to the impacts of homelessness.

WATCH: (April 1, 2019) Interior Health Authority visits communities hardest hit by drug overdose deaths

Interior Health Authority visits communities hardest hit by drug overdose deaths
Interior Health Authority visits communities hardest hit by drug overdose deaths

However, the mayor defends the decision to have another public meeting, saying it was something members of the public had asked for.

“A number of residents have indicated that [a town hall] would be helpful and one of the things that this council does is when a number of people come to us and are really interested in something we try to find the most effective mechanism to deal with that directly,” Cumming said.

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One thing that has changed since last February’s meeting is that it has become public knowledge that Interior Health plans to put an overdose prevention site in Vernon.

However, the overdose prevention site falls under the health authority’s jurisdiction, not the city’s.

The mayor said Interior Health has been made aware of the meeting and will also be welcome to access recordings of the submissions after the fact.

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There are no official presentations planned for the meeting.

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Residents and business owners who wish to speak will each get two minutes to make their points.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday June 4 in the auditorium of Vernon’s recreation centre.