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Formerly homeless Vernon couple spearheads advocacy group

Formerly homeless couple spearheading advocacy group for Vernon’s street entrenched population
We often hear about the homeless, but it is much rarer we hear from them. Now a new advocacy group is aiming to give Vernon’s street entrenched population a voice.

After living rough in Vernon parks, a formerly homeless Vernon couple is now hoping to advocate for other marginalized people.

Shane Dallyn and his wife Joanne are helping to spearhead an advocacy group for marginalized and street entrenched people called Vernon Entrenched People Against Discrimination (VEPAD).

Dallyn said the group, which holds weekly meetings, is trying to bridge the gap between those without homes and the city’s housed population.

READ MORE: Vernon housing project set to open, but more needed to end homelessness in area, advocates say

“We would like to have no gap at all,” Dallyn said.

“We want to find solutions for everybody. Right now we are sort of mentoring other members because we are on the core committee of the peer group.”

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He wants to urge the public not to stereotype marginalized groups such as the poor and homeless.

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“I don’t condone a lot of the things that go on around here, the thievery and the whatnot, but the public has to realize one thing, too: you can’t paint everybody with the same brush,” Dallyn said.

“[It’s the] same as in your main stream of life… not everybody is the same, there [are] good people, there [are] bad people.”

Dallyn freely admits he doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to addressing public concerns about homelessness, addiction and crime.

“If I had the answer to that, I’d be a millionaire,” he joked.

However, he urged the public not to lump all marginalized people together.

“Just because a person’s homeless doesn’t mean that they are going to go and break into your car,” Dallyn said.

READ MORE: Vernon seniors fed up with vagrancy and drug use downtown

Shane and Joanne’s Story

Shane Dallyn’s own experience has lead him to be a proponent of housing-first.

The former truck driver, who receives workers’ compensation after an injury, moved to Vernon with his wife Joanne several years ago.

However, after being surprised by the price of local housing, they ended up without a roof over their heads.

The Dallyns spent time living in Vernon’s Polson and Becker Parks and staying with a friend until they were able to find a shelter space where they could stay together.

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They were able to move into a temporary shelter until the My Place supportive housing building opened up.

Dallyn said having their own place has “made all the difference in the world.”

READ MORE: Vernon city council takes no specific action on seniors’ petition

“I’m all about housing-first. You can’t do anything without housing,” Dallyn said. “I wanted to work, I like to work, I like to make money just like everyone else.

“It is pretty tough to do when you are out in the bush, trying to have any kind of stable employment.”

The pair are now working part-time for the city, cleaning up garbage and needles as part of what the city calls its “Folks on Spokes” initiative.

They are looking into other possible employment and hope to eventually move on from My Place while continuing to meet weekly with other VEPAD members in the hopes of finding solutions.