Tech help for vulnerable Okanagan women

Tech help for vulnerable Okanagan women

Kelowna tech company YodelMe that’s created an app that allows people to stay in touch.

The discovery of human remains on a farm near Salmon Arm has rattled women working in the Okanagan’s sex trade.

RELATED: RCMP speak at Silver Creek farm

There are currently five women missing from the Vernon-Shuswap area, and while police have not made a public connection to the farm and the missing women, fears are rising.

A mother in Vernon told the Morning Star she was asked to provide a DNA sample to police to help with her missing daughter’s case, although claimed it was unrelated to the Silver Creek farm search.

RELATED: Family of missing Vernon woman provides DNA

Whether or it or isn’t won’t change much for those women who are in a vulnerable position.

“The girls on the street know the girls who are missing and they’re concerned, but they’ve always been concerned about what’s been happening,” said Angie Lohr, of HOPE Outreach, an organization that brings night-time care to vulnerable women in Kelowna and Vernon.

“This isn’t anything new. It happens every freaking day. These girls are beat on every day. They’re abused every day and they’re murdered every day.”

Curtis Sagmoen is currently in custody related to an incident stemming from Aug. 27 and is connected to the property currently being searched by police.

RELATED: Who is Curtis Sagmoen

He is charged with the following: disguising face with the intent to commit offence, intentionally discharging a firearm while reckless, uttering threats, careless use or storage of a firearm, possessing a weapon for dangerous purpose and possession of controlled substance.

On Oct. 13, Vernon RCMP reported they were investigating an Okanagan man in relation to an alleged incident involving threats made to a woman. Police said they initially responded to the incident on Aug. 28.

RELATED: Man in custody linked to Silver Creek property

Lohr said it’s wonderful that one woman was brave enough to speak up when a meet-up went dangerously awry, which possibly led to the discovery on the rural property. But she wants to know why more wasn’t done to protect others who were on the street between then and now.

“Why didn’t the RCMP say there was a safety concern in August?” she said. “Why did they wait three more weeks? What’s being done to safeguard these women?”

Lohr said she knows the RCMP are busy, but suspects that issues with sex trade workers fall to the bottom of the pile all too often.

It’s why Lohr goes out with her army of volunteers every night and provides harm reduction kits and an occasional shoulder to cry on.

Concerns around this vulnerable population have also earned the attention of Kelowna tech company YodelMe that’s created an app that allows people to stay in touch, regardless of where they are, through satellite signals.

“They contacted HOPE Outreach and they’re going to do a pilot project with us,” said Lohr, explaining they’ve yet to launch it, but it will be free once its done.

“In my past in the sex trade I would have used it. I would have been excited about it,” she said.

Greg ter Wolbeek, business development manager for YodelMe said he learned about HOPE Outreach through a news article and said that he immediately thought their app could help and brought the idea back to his team, who agreed.

“Essentially it’s a safety tool developed originally for the oil patch to keep workers connected and safe,” he said.

Its been up and running for six months in the oil patch and there was also a pilot project done with BC Wildfire.

Whether it will work with vulnerable women remains to be seen, but ter Wolbeek said it’s worth a try.

“If something goes wrong, you press emergency, and then you will be geotagged,” he said, adding the system can be accessed anywhere in the world.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This Dec. 2, 2020, file photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. (Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Interior Health notes 80 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

108 people in the region have died from the virus

RDuring a short downpour of rain, Sickle Point Committee member, Renee Halo Martin,  gives a green ribbon to Kaleden supporter Michael Bland. (Submitted)
100 cars lineup to get green ribbons to save Sickle Point

The Kaleden committee has until June 1 to raise $1 million

Penticton fire crews put out hot spots at a controlled burn that got a little close for comfort at Riva Ridge Estates March 8, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Controlled burn comes close to Penticton homes

Residents of Riva Ridge Estates got out their hoses before fire crews arrived

The goal of the group is to help women owned businesses recover from the pandemic and to assist women to become angel investors and women owned or co-owned businesses to better access capital.
Okanagan women’s investor fund launched to aid women-owned businesses

Twenty-five women have formed a new Okanagan angel investment fund

It's tick season in South Okanagan.
Tick season has started in South Okanagan

A Penticton adventure company collected 200 ticks last year to be studied for Lyme Disease

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice, and provides Kelowna Capital News with weekly stories from the world of local, national and international law. (Contributed)
Kootnekoff: Royal Dismissal

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Excerpts from a conversation between Bria Fisher and the fake truLOCAL job. Fisher had signed a job agreement and was prepared to start work for what she thought was truLOCAL before she learned it was a scam. (Contributed)
B.C. woman warning others after losing $3,000 in job scam

Bria Fisher was hired by what she thought was a Canadian company, only to be out thousands

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

(File photo)
RCMP seek witnesses after 2 different reports of man chasing children in Kelowna

Both incidents occured around Dougall Road in Rutland

Most Read