October 10, 2023.
Vernon, BC – The Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon & District is providing perspective to homelessness in the North Okanagan, and measures residents can support to assist those at risk of homelessness.
On Oct. 7, 2023, the provincial government released the latest homeless count for Vernon, and it indicates that the number of people who identified as experiencing homelessness climbed from 224 in 2021 to 279 between April 27 and 28, 2023.
“There is a direct correlation between being unhoused and mental health, and accessing mental health services becomes difficult when your primary focus is where you are going to sleep for the night,” said Julia Payson, CMHA Vernon executive director.
The 2023 homeless count indicated that 64 per cent of respondents in Vernon experienced mental health issues, while 45 per cent had a brain injury, 73 per cent had addiction concerns and 28 per cent had a learning disability.
“Given the current economic climate, I suspect there are many that can only hold on for much longer.”
CMHA Vernon operates the North Okanagan Rent Bank, which provides housing stability to low to moderate income earners who are unable to pay rent or utilities due to an emergency that compromises their ability to pay.
In the last six months, CMHA Vernon has distributed over $36,000 in loans that impact 64 people – single individuals, families, and seniors.
“Our initial estimates for the North Okanagan Rent Bank were that we’d issue about $30,000 a year in loans, and we’ve issued more than that in the last six months. Many of those families and individuals who are currently housed in our community are at high risk for homelessness,” said Payson.
“Many people are just a paycheque or two away from not being able to afford their rent, so the Rent Bank provides much-needed short-term assistance. However, for CMHA to provide this program, we require ongoing financial support,” said Payson.
“Provincial funding assists with the Rent Bank, but there is a need for community partners to join the provincial investment through the Coldest Night of the Year event in February or through direct donations to the CMHA Rent Bank.”
To learn more about CMHA Vernon and the North Okanagan Rent Bank, visit https://cmhavernon.ca/
For more information, contact:
Richard Rolke, Fund Development & Communications Manager
250-542-3114 [email protected]