PENTICTON - It’s going to take a collaborative, community effort to establish a housing for the city’s homeless.
That from Penticton mayor Andrew Jakubeit after a meeting held last week to explore options to resolve the city’s homeless plight.
There are concerns the numbers of homeless in the city is on the rise. Interested groups are trying to get some momentum and support towards resolving the homelessness issue through establishment of a low barrier shelter.
Jakubeit says none of the groups have yet formally approached the city.
"We do have a task force on affordable communities but our priority has always been with young families and the working poor so we can build our economy," he says. "A strong economy will lead to a strong community, which will create opportunities to create a low barrier shelter or some kind of accommodation for the city’s homeless.”
“But that doesn’t stop local community groups banding together to try and find a solution,” he adds.
"The concept of low barrier housing, and a business case for it, I would argue, is that it’s probably cheaper to create a home for them rather than have them out in the street using up emergency services resources and hospital emergency rooms,” Jakubeit says, noting homeless people encounter a number of health related issues due to life on the streets.
But Jakubeit says no one in the city has built a business case and a proposal that could be taken to higher levels of government for funding.
Governments are looking for partnerships, and not necessarily from governments at the municipal level, he adds, noting higher levels of government like to see buy-in at the community level.
The mayor says volunteers in the city are currently providing food and clothing at the Soupateria and efforts like Keep the Cold Off Penticton. Plus there is an emergency shelter now available to homeless people when temperature dips below -5 Celsius.
He says a low barrier shelter is a logical next step. He believes the city’s volunteers are reaching the “critical mass” needed to move forward to the next step.
“Someone has to champion it and someone has to provide a business case, and a manager to ensure the house rules of a shelter are adhered to,” Jakubeit adds. He says there would have to be liaisons with Interior Health and other levels of government throughout the process.
Jakubeit also notes there are obstacles that will need to be overcome before establishing a low barrier shelter, including where to locate one, and how to finance and staff it. He says there would also be a need for programs to help people deal with mental health and addiction issues.
He’s committed to working with various city non-profits who are trying to provide a solution or some programming. He says he’d like to see everyone together in the same room, because right now everyone is trying to solve the problem independently.
“If we can work together to figure out a collaborative solution, then we might get somewhere. Interior Health or the province might look at the entity coming out of that and get behind it,” he says.
Jakubeit would like to revisit the issue with a summit-like meeting in January. He’d like to see the city’s faith-based groups, non-profit organizations and individual residents meet together to narrow down a plan of action.
The mayor says he plans to contact the directors of the city’s charitable organizations later this week to begin building an agenda for a future meeting.
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