Public Safety and Community Development


The John Howard Society of the North Okanagan & Kootenay Region is committed to public safety and community development. We achieve these goals through the programs we operate and through ongoing community driven initiatives.

Our goal is to monitor and assess safety risks to our community and its citizens and to work with our community to address the causes and consequences of crime and poverty. Risks include affordable food and housing shortages, ineffective processes for community reintegration of offenders, lack of supports for victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

We continue to lead and contribute to a vast group of community led initiatives. Please take the time to read about and become a part of the work we do with our community.
•    City of Vernon Strategies & Policies 
•    Neighbourhood Councils & Good Neighbourhood Agreements
•    Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault
•    Recovery/Addictions Support
•    Discharge Support
•    Mental Health
•    Supports for Marginalized Citizens
•    Community Education & Fundraising

City of Vernon Strategies & Policies
•    Welcoming Communities Program 
In the spring of 2014 the John Howard Society (JHS) was working with the Social Planning Council on part of their Welcoming Communities contract. It was decided that the old Chinese Downtown and the Chinese Community would be recognized through these efforts.

Vernon’s Chinese Community and the Vernon Museum joined the committee. Through the process two signs were developed which consist of information about the community and photographs from the late 1800’s through to today. 

The signs recognizing Vernon’s Chinese Community now hang on the old Chinese Free Masons building which is now JHS’s Gateway Shelter for Women and Men.

•    Responsible Gambling 
The City of Vernon entered into a $50,000 sponsorship agreement with BC Lottery Corporation for a responsible gambling initiative.  The City of Vernon approved a proposal by the Social Planning Council to host a Responsible Gambling Awareness Week (RGAW) over two consecutive years (January 2012 and January 2013).  North Okanagan Employment Enhancement Society was hired to work with the John Howard Society and Partners in Action team and coordinate the activities and communications campaign.
As a result of the success of the RGAW 2012 campaign in Vernon, BCLC decided to expand the project to four other communities in BC in 2013: Kamloops, Langley, Prince George and Westshore.

The January 2013 campaign built on the successes and “lessons learned” from the previous year and reached more individuals than the 2012 campaign.  A Final Report was presented to City Council in July 2013.

BCLC hosted a RGAW in Vernon in 2014. This action team is now closed.

•    City Policy for Displaced Tenants in Affordable Housing Units
Social Planning Council coordinated a meeting between the City Planning Department, John Howard Society (JHS) and the Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation.  A draft policy was created as a result of the meeting and forwarded to City Council for their feedback and consideration.
In January 2012, City Council supported a policy that included: Increasing the current requirement of 2 months’ notice of eviction to 3 months.
In addition to the required one month’s rent compensation the developer must pay another month’s compensation to JHS’s Homeless Outreach Program. The JHS will work with individual tenants to use the funds for housing needs that will not interrupt their income assistance benefits if they are on the system.  
This could include damage deposits, unpaid utility bills, moving expenses etc. 
•    Safety Strategies for Families in Potentially Unsafe Housing
There have been a number of house fire tragedies in BC that could have been prevented with proper smoke detectors and fire plans.  A Partners in Action team was created to address this issue.
The City of Vernon Fire Department took the lead on this problem and has developed a comprehensive program to ensure residents in Vernon have access to proper smoke detectors.  Partners in Action met with the Fire Department to provide feedback and support to the project.

•    Harm Reduction Strategy
A “Partners in Action” team formed in May 2008 to create a harm reduction strategy that supports efforts for dealing effectively with addictions in our community.  In addition, the team supported the Street Clinic during its transition to an outreach model.
By October 2008, a work plan had been created for the strategy development and an initial community consultation had been hosted by the action team.  

By April 2010, the strategy had been launched and action teams implemented. A community driven harm reduction strategy was created and adopted by the Partners in Action Committee.  

A Harm Reduction Evaluation Team has been put in place to monitor the successes/challenges.

•    Homelessness Strategy
A “Partners in Action” team formed in summer of 2007 to create a homelessness strategy that supports efforts for dealing effectively with homelessness in our community.  In addition, the team supported the John Howard Society in opening a downtown shelter for women and men.

By early 2008, a work plan had been created for the strategy development and an initial community consultation had been hosted by the action team.  

By mid 2008, the strategy had been launched and action teams implemented. A community driven homelessness strategy was created and adopted by the Partners in Action Committee.  

A Homelessness Evaluation Team has been put in place to monitor the successes/challenges.

•    Partners in Action
The John Howard Society has served on the Partners in Action committee since it was implemented in 2007 by the North Okanagan Social Planning Council. 

The Partners in Action Committee believes that by focusing on the root causes of crime you increase the health and safety of the community. The Committee’s action teams have been formed around the following areas of focus: Accessing Childcare, Accessing Recreation, Food Security, Harm Reduction, Housing / Homelessness, Mental Health / Addictions, Neighbourhood Capacity. As issues continue to come to the table, other topics have been added to the list.

Neighbourhood Councils & Good Neighbourhood Agreements
•    Harwood Neighbourhood Council / Good Neighbour Agreement
In the fall of 2012 the John Howard Society started working with the community in the creation of the Harwood Neighbourhood Council in order to address concerns of the neighbourhood about the sober living house (Bill’s Place).  Multiple community meetings were held to ensure opportunity for community input was available.
By the spring of 2013 the Good Neighbour Agreement and Neighbourhood Security Plan were in place.

The Harwood Neighbourhood Council continues to meet with the John Howard Society as a member. The Council has expanded the scope of the Neighbourhood Council to include issues around traffic calming and parking.
•    Centerville Neighbourhood Council / Communication and Security Strategy for Shelter and Neighbouring Business 

A “Partners in Action” team formed in February of 2008 to address concerns of neighbouring businesses to the planned location of the Gateway Shelter. 

By end of March 2008, a security plan and communications strategy had been developed by the John Howard Society and businesses.

By end of June 2008, a community consultation had been hosted by the action team.

By September 2008, the Gateway Shelter had opened its doors with the action team assisting in the celebration.

The action team transformed into the Centerville Neighbourhood Council chaired by the John Howard Society and is ongoing to continue to implement security and communications strategies.

Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault
•    Okanagan Bad Date Program

In July 2011 the two primary service providers working with people involved in survival sex recognized that there was a need for a bad date program in the North Okanagan. The John Howard Society (JHS) and the North Okanagan Youth and Family Social Services (NOYFSS) teamed up to create a protocol for reporting sexual assaults to people involved in survival sex. 

The reports have been distributed to applicable service providers for posting to ensure descriptors of the predator and vehicle is widely available.

In the summer of 2014 JHS and NOYFSS started working with organizations from Kelowna to expand the program across the Okanagan.
•    Male Sexual Abuse Awareness
In June 2011 the John Howard Society (JHS) started a campaign to raise awareness that males are often victims of sexual assault. 

Our main objectives are to raise community and agency awareness of the need for services for men who have been sexually abused. Identify services in the Okanagan for men who have been sexually abused. Identify services in the Okanagan for men who have been sexual offenders. Identify gaps in services.

In September 2011 JHS held a workshop for service providers led by Alana Samson, Executive Director and Senior Therapist from Victoria’s Men’s Trauma Center. The workshop was aimed at helping professionals who may encounter male survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the course of their roles as social workers, addiction counselors, street outreach workers, frontline support workers, crisis line workers, corrections officers, etc. The workshop included a discussion of special topics including gay men, spirituality, and men with disabilities. 

In October 2011 JHS co facilitated a community forum with a focus on male sexual abuse victimization. The forum’s guest speakers included survivors and counselors.

JHS continues to advocate for increased funding for programs specialized in working with male survivors.

•    Violence Against Woman in Relationships
In September 2010 the John Howard Society joined the Violence Against Woman in Relationships committee. This committee oversees such initiatives as the High Risk Domestic Violence Committee and Sexual Assault Services Committee.

Moving into 2015 the committee is working on a variety of initiatives which include: Options for free and safe supervised access to children, Violence in teen relationships, Violence in relationships involving immigrant women, lack of voluntary and timely services for offenders.

•    High Risk Domestic Violence Committee
From September 2009 to Feb 2011 the John Howard Society served as part of the High Risk Domestic Violence Committee.
The committee’s purpose was to develop, administer and evaluate a local process that increases the safety of those affected by domestic violence. 
The agencies involved were committed to the philosophy that domestic violence is a crime and deserves a criminal response, and that domestic homicide is preventable.

A Memorandum of Understanding was created to enable agencies to share information appropriately and within boundaries of legislation.
This model was not only officially adopted in the North Okanagan, but is now used through out the province.

Today a North Okanagan Safety Planning and Risk Assessment Committee exist to identify domestic violence “cases” that would most benefit from the program.

•    Sexual Assault Services
Vernon is not funded to provide medical services to victims of sexual assault. In November 2008 the John Howard Society joined a committee consisting of Interior Health, RCMP, Women’s Transition Society and many others to ensure a local service was in place. Prior to this initiative, victims were required to go to the Kelowna Hospital to see a sexual assault examiner. 

A protocol was developed and various fundraising initiatives occurred to train local Registered Nurses to be sexual assault examiners.

In 2009 and 2012 the John Howard Society assisted in hosting fundraisers to raise money for training, transportation, sexual assault examination kits and clothing.

By September 2009 Vernon’s Sexual Assault Services were in operation. If someone has been sexually assaulted they can go directly to Vernon Jubilee Hospital Emergency where a specialized team is available to provide care to anyone 13 or older who has been sexually assaulted within the past 7 days. Alternatively, the person can choose to access the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Social Worker, Specialized Victims Assistance, Family Resource Centre, Crisis Line, RCMP Victim Assistance: Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby & Lumby Public Health, Downtown Primary Care Clinic, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Vernon Women’s Transition House.

The committee continues to meet for program reviews, community education and funding innitatives.

Recovery/Addictions Support 
•    Access to Local Detox Services
There are currently no local Detox services in Vernon with the nearest referrals being Kamloops and Kelowna. In the summer of 2013 Partners in Action team was tasked with researching the possibility of home Detox services and/or a “day-tox” program in Vernon.

A pilot project was launched that targets people with an alcohol addiction (who are medically cleared) staying in supported housing.  They are provided with Detox support from their physician, the street nurse, and supported housing staff.  This means that people who meet the criteria for the program do not have to wait for a referral to Kamloops or Kelowna and can be detoxed safely in their own community.  The John Howard Society (JHS) in conjunction with the North Okanagan Youth & Family Social Services, Street Nurse now facilitates this community program at JHS’s Bill’s Place and Howard House facilities.

•    Okanagan Recovery Day
By the fall of 2012 the John Howard Society was operating two Residential Addictions Recovery Programs for men. There was an obvious lack of funding and awareness of the issues around long term recovery.

In January 2013 JHS hosted the critically acclaimed film the Anonymous People at the Vernon Town Cinema which sold out. After the film JHS addictions recovery staff stayed for a question & answer period at which time it was made clear more needs to be done in order to raise awareness that addictions are not a moral failure, but a legitimate medical health condition.

In March 2013 JHS met with people in long term recovery and through this process started Vernon’s involvement with the growing Recovery Day movement. Shortly thereafter, JHS joined the Okanagan Recovery Day planning committee and the Canadian Recovery Day committee. 

On Sept 28, 2014 JHS and Vernon’s recovery community participated in the second Okanagan Recovery Day held in Kelowna. In 2015 Vernon will be hosting Okanagan Recovery Day.

•    Women’s Second Stage Addictions Recovery 
A “Partners in Action” team was created in the spring of 2010.  Members developed a business plan and had temporarily secured a partnership with the Anglican Church for the location of the project. This has since fallen through.  

Unfortunately, funding for second stage housing for women has not been secured.  This remains the biggest gap in Vernon’s affordable housing inventory.

Discharge Support
•    Red Zone Action Team

The Red Zone Action Team was created in April 2014 to work with the RCMP, Probation and Crown Council to ensure red zoned individual’s rights are not violated and that they are able to receive shelter and food services located in the red zone.

Citizens deemed by the court to be a prolific offender can be prevented to enter one or both of Vernon’s Red Zones. The main concern for is that clients are able to access services for basic needs for survival (food and shelter, health service etc).  Although conditions can be set to help provide access, there is a lack of communication as to when/how they can access services.  There were also questions on the effectiveness of this tool for crime prevention in terms of disbursement.  Red zoning prolific offenders shifts the problem to a new neighbourhood.

The committee continues to meet to look for long term solutions.

•    Lack of voluntary and timely services for offenders
In early 2012 the John Howard Society started conducting prerelease planning at Kamloops Regional Correctional Center (KRCC) for Vernon citizens planning on returning to their home community. As there is no official relationship or protocols between KRCC and JHS therefore there has been limited contact. 

In Nov 2014 the John Howard Society started a committee working with the Violence Against Woman in Relationships committee and the Vernon Women’s Transition Society. The goal is to assess the lack of voluntary and timely services for offenders and work collaboratively to ensure appropriate reintegration supports are available.

Starting in early 2015 both the John Howard Society and the Vernon Women’s Transition Society will be starting Homeless Prevention Programs funded by BC Housing. One of the program mandates is to provide assistance, referrals and access to housing to people leaving the corrections systems

•    Hospital Discharge Action Team
The Hospital Discharge Action Team was created in October 2009 to work with the hospital and outreach workers to ensure homeless citizens receive proper care after being discharged form the hospital.

By December 2009, a protocol /resource list was created.  The group was creative with the limited resources available to them, but succeeded in coming up with solutions for better follow up care for homeless individuals.

In 2011 the John Howard Society joined with other shelters to establish a province wide hospital discharge protocol. This provincial committee continues to meet periodically to review the protocol and strategize around new challenges.

Mental Health
•    Suicide Prevention Committee

From early 2011 to late 2012 the John Howard Society were active members of Vernon’s Suicide Prevention Committee led by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

In October 2011 the John Howard Society co hosted a community forum on men and depression at the Vernon Recreation Center which saw approximately 250 participants, mostly men. Topics discussed included men’s depression, suicide and sexual abuse.

After this event the Family Resource Center had a significant increase in men accessing specialized councillors for sexual abuse related counselling.

•    Mental Health Quarterly Meeting
In 2009 the John Howard Society joined Interior Health’s Mental Health Quarterly Meeting. It is an ongoing opportunity for not for profits and government agencies to provide updates on services, funding increases and decreases.

Supports for Marginalized Citizens
•    Emergency Food Action Network

The Emergency Food Action Network is a coalition of community representatives working collectively to share information and resources to address emergency food issues in the North Okanagan.  

The John Howard Society joined this committee in mid 2014 due to ongoing food resources concerns.

•    Hoarding Response Action Team
The manager of the By-law Department requested that the Partners in Action review a new model for responding to hoarders that has been set up in Vancouver to see if a similar model can be used in Vernon.  Hoarding can lead to issues with fire, safety, neighbouhood complaints as well as potential eviction by landlord.  

A meeting of stakeholders including the John Howard Society took place in December 2013 to create a Vernon based model for better supporting people who have a tendency to hoard.  

•    Supports for Sex Trade Workers 
In the spring of 2012 a Partners in Action team was created to look at the services available to women in the sex trade and to create protocols between services, agencies and businesses that may come in contact with this population.  
The action team approached stakeholders (such as the RCMP, Probation, and the Downtown Vernon Association) to develop protocols with a goal to connect sex trade workers to services and to provide support to businesses who may be impacted by sex trade activity.

A partnership has been developed between North Okanagan Youth & Family Services (NOYFSS), Interior Health, John Howard Society and the Upper Room Mission to reinstate a support program that is designed specifically for women in the sex trade.  NOYFSS has agreed to host the program with no additional funding sources in place.

•    Address Wait Time for Income Assistance 
In April 2012 Service Providers started reporting that clients in crisis are having trouble accessing income assistance benefits since the changeover to a new computerized system called Integrated Case Management (ICM). 
The action team organized a series of meetings with the Ministry of Social Development & Social Innovation (MSDSI) and service providers to address this issue
As a result of this action team, MSDSI set up a pilot project to ensure that service providers working with clients in crisis are linked directly to intake workers in order to connect clients to income assistance benefits.  The pilot project was tested in the spring of 2013 and service providers reported an improvement.  Clients began receiving supports within 48 hours as opposed to weeks and/or months.  

•    Women’s Only Drop in Center
In the summer of 2011, a group of service providers met to identify the gaps that were created by the closing of the Vernon Women’s Centre Society.  A number of agencies stepped forward and took on extra programming (without additional funding) to ensure women’s needs are being met.  
By the fall of 2011 Independent Living Vernon was providing space and the John Howard Society (JHS) and Vernon Women’s Transition Society (VWTS) and were providing the staffing for a women’s only drop in program.  In the summer of 2013 JHS and VWTS stopped providing staffing due to budget restraints.
In the spring of 2014 the Vernon Upper Room Mission Society renovated their basement and took on the program which continues to run today.

•    Community Dental Access Center Committee
In early 2011 the John Howard Society joined a committee aimed at creating a free-low cost dental care for low income families and individuals. 

The clinic opened for business in mid 2013. The clinic will accept government dental plans, without balance billing. The clinic will take patients in urgent need with no money suffering with infection and abscess and provide extractions regardless of client’s ability to pay. There is help for street-entrenched populations with the assistance of Outreach Workers to get clients to their appointments. Preventive services are also provided, along with chronic disease management, tobacco cessation, sealant clinics, etc.  
College of Hygiene gives collage education points for volunteering, especially if it coincides with education. 

•    COOL Team
Partners in Action team formed in January 2009 to create a protocol between the By-laws Department and the social services outreach workers to better deal with homeless camps within municipal parks and property.
By  March 2009, a protocol had been written and agreed upon along with supporting documents, an new outreach team (the COOL team) was created that includes by-law officers, and a database system has been set up to monitor camps in the areas.  The goals of the protocol include:  engaging with campers and preventing problems before they occur, linking campers to services, minimizing stress when camps are decommissioned and increasing safety for the wider public using the parks.
The COOL team did an outreach exercise in June 2009 so the community has baseline data on the number and location of camps in the Vernon area.  This process is repeated twice a year in spring and fall.
Since that time Vernon has seen a reduction in homeless camps from thirty to approximately three. Today the John Howard Society continues to lead the COOL Team which meets regularly to assess the gaps in services for citizens in extreme poverty and work towards effective wrap around services. JHS’s North Okanagan Poverty Outreach Committee which ran from Feb 2012 to Apr 2014 disbanded and amalgamated with the COOL Team.

•    Non Profit Housing Business Plans
A Partner in Action team was created in April 2008 in order to provide business planning support to local non profit housing agencies.  By June of 2008, funding was secured to hire Allan Neilson Welch. 
By September of 2008, Allan had met with the housing non-profits and formed three teams to develop three business plans for supported housing for men, women and youth.

By June 2009, business plans had been completed

•    Supporting Upper Room Mission
A “Partners in Action” team was formed in February 2008 in recognition that the Upper Room Mission (URM) is in need of financial and programming support in order to handle the number of homeless people accessing their services.

By March 2008, a meeting was held with various service providers to brainstorm ways to support the URM.  Short and long term solutions were identified and subsequent meetings were held to implement solutions. 

By September 2008 the John Howard Society was contracting the URM to provide seventy five meals a day, seven days a week. That food services contract continues today.

•    Ensuring continuation of Street Nurse/Street Clinic Program
A “Partners in Action” team formed in November 2007

By December 2007, the action team provided community support for the continuation of the street nurse outreach position; North Okanagan Youth & Family Social Services applied to the funding source with the street nurse outreach position included.  

•    Create a Downtown Primary Care Centre 
A “Partners in Action” team formed in May 2007
Between June and August 2007, Social Planning Council facilitated three stakeholder sessions for the proposed Downtown Primary Care Centre; service providers agreed to collaborate on an integrated service deliver approach

By November 2007, the Downtown Primary Care Centre opened its doors with a mandate to provide health care and a link to services (addictions counseling, income assistance, housing etc) to the marginalized street population

Action Team completed by November 2007

•    Secure Shelter Services in Downtown Core
A “Partners in Action” team formed in January of 2007

By end of May 2007, the John Howard Society began negotiations with BC Housing 

By November 2007, temporary shelters were opened for men and women and a commitment was received from BC Housing to provide ongoing permanent funding for 24 hour shelter services

By January 2008, BC Housing purchased the “Chinese Free Masons” building in downtown Vernon and contracted to the John Howard Society to run a men’s and women’s program.

Action Team completed by January 2008

Community Education & Fundraising
•    Service Provider Q&A

From early 2012 to late 2013 the John Howard Society and North Okanagan Youth and Family Services teamed up to host a monthly presentation/question and answer period for service providers. Each month two different agencies would have time to discuss their programs and answer any questions.

•    Homelessness Action Week
Starting in 2010 the John Howard Society has been writing articles and hosting events for Canada’s annual Homelessness Action Month.

Most recently in 2014 JHS worked with a steering committee to establish a Homelessness Memorial in Vernon’s Polson Park to recognize those who have passed away due to health conditions, addictions, suicide and homicide. Also in 2014 JHS worked with the Social Planning Council to amalgamate the Homeless and Harm Reduction Strategy update sessions which involved stakeholders across the North Okanagan.

•    Service Providers Appreciation Night
Starting in May 2009 the John Howard Society has spearheaded an annual fundraiser for local programs. The programs or societies whom have received donations through this initiative include: JHS-Gateway Shelter for Women & Men, Vernon Sexual Assault Services (twice), Independent Living Vernon, Community Dental Access Center, and JHS-Bill’s Place Residential Addiction’s Recovery Program.

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