Penticton council not backing down against province on emergency shelter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton council not backing down against province on emergency shelter

Penticton City Council dealt with the latest correspondence from B.C. Housing at an emergency council meeting today, March 23, 2021, regarding a council decision to close the city's emergency shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street, shown above.
March 23, 2021 - 1:56 PM

Penticton City Council continued to stand their ground in its dispute with the province over the city’s emergency winter shelter located at 352 Winnipeg Avenue.

The province stated last week it would invoke paramountcy — exercising its higher powers over a municipal government — to continue operating an emergency winter shelter past council’s March 31 deadline.

Council held a special meeting at noon today, March 23, to deal with a March 19 letter from B.C. Housing in which the authority stated its intention to continue operating the shelter.

Council directed staff to continue working with B.C. Housing and Penticton and District Society for Community Living on a transition plan following the closing of the temporary emergency shelter.

Mayor John Vassilaki said council would be conducting further discussions on the matter in April, condemning provincial housing minister David Eby’s stance on the issue for “continuing to defy city council” on the closure.

Coun. Judy Sentes said many people failed to realize the second paragraph in council’s original veto of a provincial request to maintain the emergency winter shelter for another year at 352 Winnipeg Street, in which council "requested staff to work with the city safety and advisory committee and bring back recommendations to council on supportive housing and shelter location, selection guidelines to ensure any future facilities are located in locations that adhere to the criteria.”

She said council never indicated an unwillingness to work towards resolution, saying that was implied in Minister Eby’s comments.

“That’s always been implied, that’s a problem, and I think it’s a mis-statement,” she said.

Coun. Katie Robinson said it was important to let the community know through council and staff, that B.C. Housing had been provided with many options for housing the 42 residents of the shelter following its closure at the end of the month.

“Our council has reached out to churches, hoteliers, businesses, and we have a long list of viable options. That being said, our council made it very clear since the opening of this temporary shelter at the beginning of November last year that it was a temporary solution,” she said.

Robinson said council never indicated an interest in an extension to the shelter’s operation.

She said B.C. Housing CEO Shane Ramsey summed up the issue in a previous letter to council when he stated it was clear the emergency shelter should stay open “on a balance of convenience.”

“A balance of convenience? For whom, I ask? Well allow me to be very, very clear on this. It is not convenient to the seniors who live beside this facility. It is not convenient for our business community. It is not convenient to the residents in this neighbourhood, and it is not convenient for Penticton, and shame on the government for suggesting that it is inconvenient to do your job,” Robinson said.

Vassilaki refused to say whether or not the city would take legal action to challenge any attempt by the province to continue operating the shelter past March 31.

Council passed the motion unanimously. A second motion by Coun. Bloomfield was made in an effort to convey publicly council’s willingness to continue discussions for a long term resolution to social housing issues in the city was delayed to a future meeting.

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