Penticton council at odds with B.C. Housing over emergency shelter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton council at odds with B.C. Housing over emergency shelter

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March 03, 2021 - 10:51 AM

Penticton city council appears to be headed for a showdown with B.C. Housing after a pointed discussion at yesterday’s regular council meeting.

B.C. Housing applied and received a temporary use permit to use the former Victory Church building at 352 Winnipeg St. as a temporary location for winter shelter beds last fall and the province wanted to extend the shelter at that location. Council approved the initial permit, with a list of conditions, but yesterday denied the extension putting a serious crimp in the province's plans to deal with homelessness..

The shelter was to be used as an overflow for the city’s current emergency shelter at Compass Court. The permit is due to expire April 1, and B.C. Housing placed an application before council for a permit to extend the temporary use permit until March, 2022.

City planner Blake Laven told council the permit’s conditions included security, limits on bed numbers and other conditions.

He provided two options to council, including denying the permit, or to direct staff to look at the application and come back to council with possible ways to make the location more permanent as a shelter.

Mayor and council were emphatic in their unified decision to deny any further extension of the permit.

“This is just a follow through on the promise we made to the citizens in this area, back when we reluctantly approved the temporary permit in the first place," councillor Katie Robinson said. "We made it very clear at that time that it was just temporary, and I believe it’s incumbent for us to go forward and do what we said we were going to do and shut it down, March 31.”

Robinson called the temporary shelter “a most inappropriate site,” adding council didn’t get what they were promised from those operating the shelter.

She said communication with B.C. Housing was “sadly lacking.”

“It kind of boggles the mind sometimes they don’t have any conversations with us whatsoever, and we’re placed in very uncomfortable positions in having no plan ‘B’ back up,” she said.

Councillor Judy Sentes said she had been challenged as a councillor as to why the city didn’t offer the former Greyhound bus barn on Ellis Street for use as a shelter.

“We did make that offer, but B.C. Housing didn’t feel it was appropriate,” Sentes said.

The decision to deny a further extension of the permit passed unanimously.

Laven also recommended taking the issue to the city’s security advisory committee to look for a location for a permanent emergency shelter for future use, which was also included in the council decision.

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