Accusations fly over Penticton council decision to shutter emergency shelter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Accusations fly over Penticton council decision to shutter emergency shelter

FILE PHOTO - Attorney General and Minister of Housing Minister David Eby announces reforms to ICBC, Feb. 11, 2019.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
March 03, 2021 - 2:44 PM

The rhetoric regarding a Penticton council decision to not renew a Ministry of Housing temporary use permit for an emergency winter shelter is heating up today as angry words are exchanged between council and the Minister of Housing.

Penticton city council voted unanimously at a council meeting yesterday, March 2, not to extend a permit for the shelter until March, 2022, as requested by B.C. Housing.

Attorney General and Minister of Housing David Eby slammed Penticton council in a teleconference interview early this afternoon, March 3, saying the province will move ahead with its plans with or without the city’s help.

He said council was fully aware of B.C Housing’s intent to ask for an extension on the temporary use permit in the old Victory Church building at 352 Winnipeg St.

“I guess council was hopeful that on April 1 it would be warm and nice out and people could live outside quite happily," Eby said. "My opinion is when you add 42 people to the 100 people already outside in Penticton, you are rapidly approaching numbers where you risk large scale encampment in a park that cannot be moved by a court injunction.

He said his hopes people could be housed in the shelter until an agreement was reached with the city around opening supportive housing to move them inside were “clearly dashed.”

The city and ministry have also recently come to loggerheads over a proposal to build a supportive housing project at 3240 Skaha Lake Rd. with council requesting a third party audit of the supportive housing in the city.

Eby said the plan was for people to move into the proposed supportive housing project once it opened, but said the city put that on hold.

He placed the blame for the crisis completely at the feet of council, calling it all council’s making.

"This isn’t really about anything other than whether we can move ahead to move people with city council or without them, and I think I’ve had a pretty clear indication council wants us to go ahead without them,” he said. "I don’t understand why, it would be a better plan with them involved.”

Penticton city councillor Katie Robinson is pictured in this undated file photo.
Penticton city councillor Katie Robinson is pictured in this undated file photo.

Reaction from council was swift.

Councillor Katie Robinson called Eby’s comments “irresponsible beyond words.”

“He’s not telling the truth. He’s talking about working together but what he really means is it’s my way or the highway,” Robinson said, referring to Eby’s comments as “gross exaggerations.”

“Spare us your righteous indignation,” she said.

Robinson said the topic of the emergency shelter came up in passing at recent discussions involving the minister.

“He asked if we would give an extension, we said no one had asked, and that was a month ago," she said. "Within a week of that conversation, B.C. Housing came back and asked for an extension."

She said council has been doing its due diligence, and allowed the shelter to be placed on Winnipeg Street in spite of the location being inappropriate as well as being against neighbourhood wishes.

“You should see the correspondence I’ve received from seniors terrified to go out in that neighbourhood," Robinson said. "Downtown business don’t want it there but it was an emergency so we passed it, making it clear it was only to be temporary.

“I’ve never seen anything so irresponsible as (Eby) on television last night claiming the province has 1,000 tents and sleeping bags we’ll ship to Penticton. Why doesn’t he just put out an open invitation for all the homeless to move to Penticton now? That’s blackmail, and I have a serious, serious problem with that."

She said the city needs the province to come to bat for rehab and mental health facilities in the community, but “all the minister wants to do is warehouse people.”

“He says let’s work together, yet every single step of the way, they are undermining us, and they aren’t listening to our needs. I mean, I don’t know how you deal with someone like that. It’s very confrontational.”

Asked how council might move forward, Robinson said she didn’t know.

“It’s a dog’s breakfast,” she said.

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