While the loss of any life is too much, Chuck Harper believes the death toll on Vernon’s homeless is easing.
“We only lost eight that I can count this year, and it’s down, in years before it was 20 and 30,” the North Okanagan Community Chaplain told an intimate crowd at the sixth annual Homeless Memorial Thursday in Polson Park.
But more still needs to be done to ensure more lives aren’t lost, according to Harper as well as others who spoke at the event.
“We need more dry shelters, need more detox centres and we need more beds here in Vernon,” said Harper, who also battled with addiction, but thanks faith for getting, and keeping, him sober.
Speaking from experience, being young and sleeping on the streets, Harper says we are all just one job loss, one car accident or one trauma away from potentially being homeless ourselves.
“We are not immune.”
He recalls one homeless lady’s mother’s words, at her memorial.
“Her mom said something to me that none of us should never forget, ‘my daughter was more than her addiction.’
“Our men and women have lives, have stories, have moms and dads and daughters and sons, spouses and loved ones.”
Meanwhile one RCMP officer who returned to the area recently after being out of province for awhile, says the homeless situation is alarming.
“When I arrived about a month ago and my boss took me downtown, I was shocked,” said Insp. Kevin Keen.
“But not so shocking was what I saw from the community,” he added of groups and individuals giving to people when they are in need.
My Place, the latest housing facility constructed in town, was applauded. Many agreed that more of these housing units are needed. But one woman, who used to be homeless, points out that My Place is not enough.
“We need to remember those beds that they made they are taken from the Howard House and the Howard House is going to be shutting down therefore we aren’t going to have those eds anymore,” said Maggie King.