PENTICTON - Penticton city council has endorsed new criteria for the city’s extreme weather response shelter in a decision three councillors felt wasn’t theirs to make.
City planning manager Blake Laven says the city’s regular emergency shelter at Compass House on Nanaimo Avenue will now also act as an extreme weather response shelter, which was formerly housed in the Cold Snap Inn on Main Street.
Compass House normally has 16 beds for emergency use by homeless men in the city, and will now provide 12 more beds for the use of both men and woman during extreme weather events.
The Salvation Army operates the shelter and Laven says they are requesting the city’s involvement in endorsing the parameters of the extreme weather response plan for Penticton, as shelter operations become compromised during the period when additional beds are needed during extreme weather events. The Salvation Army is also looking for the city’s acknowledgment of the Compass House facility as the location for the extreme weather shelter in the city.
B.C. Housing is responsible for administering the province’s emergency shelter program but leaves it up to individual municipalities to outline the conditions under which the shelter is opened. Funding is only provided the days the shelter operates as an extreme weather shelter.
In Penticton’s case, the emergency shelter opens if the temperature falls to -5 Celsius, if there is more than five centimetres of snow of if there is freezing rain. The emegency shelter opens at 8 p.m. and closes at 8 a.m.
Laven says city council doesn’t normally have a role in such decisions, but due to operating circumstances last year, the Salvation Army made the request for a formal resolution from council, for the sake of clarity and authority with respect to their operation of Compass House as the city’s extreme weather shelter.
At the city council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, Coun. Judy Sentes recommended boosting the temperature at which the shelter is activated to -1 C or -2 C rather than -5 C, with additional provisions for opening should there be any precipitation, rather than just freezing rain.
Coun. Max Picton declined from voting on the issue, stating he did not feel the question was one which council was qualified to answer, an argument echoed by Coun. Campbell Watt, who voted nonetheless.
Coun. Helena Konanz also felt it was a question for others to answer, saying she felt B.C. Housing should be represented. She favoured raising the temperature threshold to -2 C.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit saw the issue before council of one of a simple request to provide comment in order to help establish the shelter’s operating criteria.
“They may circle back and say extra funding is needed, but that’s a conversation for another time,” he said.
In a 4-2 decision, Coun. Max Picton abstaining, council approved the extreme weather criteria including the adjustment of the temperature requirement from -5 C to -2 C, and gave their support to the Salvation Army and Compass House as the extreme weather shelter operator.
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