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Penticton supportive housing review finds housing affordability a top issue

An alleyway in downtown Penticton.

Rent is too expensive in Penticton for some of it residents to be able to move out of the city's supportive housing projects.

That was one finding in the Penticton Supportive Housing Review which was commissioned by B.C. Housing to determine how three supportive housing sites are meeting their mandates.

“There’s nothing affordable in this city, it doesn’t exist,” a resident of the Fairhaven shelter told researchers in 2021.

Everybody quoted in the report remained anonymous.

“If you look online a one-bedroom is $1,600 a month, which isn’t affordable even if you’re working full-time."

That resident also lives at the Fairhaven shelter at 2670 Skaha Lake Rd. It's a two-storey refurbished motel that has 41 single-occupancy units. There are two other shelters in Penticton at Compass Court at 1706 Main St. which has 20 single occupancy units, and the Burdock House at 594 Winnipeg St. with 62 units.

At all three shelters, residents have secure access to the buildings through a fob, access to harm reduction and overdose prevention initiatives, and are allowed to have one adult visitor during the daytime.

“I’d like it if my daughter could come and see where I live, but I get that they can’t have kids here… she knows that I’m in a good place here," a Compass Court resident said.

READ MORE: The end is near for Penticton's controversial homeless shelter

The city has a total of 123 units, and the report found that 117 residents were living in supportive housing in 2021.

In 2018, B.C. Housing counted 108 people experiencing homelessness in Penticton in that year’s Point In Time Report.

Last year’s Point In Time report counted 114 people experiencing homelessness.

The lack of affordable housing is part of why those numbers are rising, local stakeholders reported in the review, adding that there is a need for more supportive and affordable housing.

But despite these chronic challenges, the services currently in place are having positive impacts, the review found.

Survey results found that 66% of residents reported improvements in overall well-being, 59% reported improved access to supports, and 37% saw improvements in their addiction issues.

“I’ve had people do really well in supportive housing,” a service provider said.

“One fellow was homeless and had no income, but since getting housed he got income assistance, got his ID, and got a job... this is someone who (previously) couldn’t get access to support.”

READ MORE: How Penticton's homeless people cope at -20 C at night

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/B.C. Housing

The review found that 92.9% of residents surveyed had at least one connection to Penticton before moving into their supportive housing unit. Half of those surveyed said they lived in the city in the past, and 44.6% have friends or family in the area.

Staff at all three sites reported that residents generally get along well with each other and look out for one another.

Through interviews, residents said they sometimes do favours for each other, like drive neighbours to appointments or make extra food to share.

Many residents reconnected with loved ones since moving into their housing unit, despite not being allowed to have visitors during the pandemic, when the research was conducted.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/B.C. Housing

Beyond the 117 residents currently living in Penticton’s supportive housing, another 149 were living there at some point but have since moved out.

Nearly two-thirds of former residents were there for more than six months, and over a third resided there for more than 12 months, the review found.

Among 95 residents who left before staying a full 12 months – 35 were expelled, 23 gave notice of their departure, less than 10 of them died, and 26 moved out for other reasons.

Service providers believe more addictions support services are needed in the city, particularly a recovery and detox center.

Respondents said staffers at Interior Health have been “doing a good job” since the health authority decided to pull funding from a reputable local organization and provide addiction services themselves.

Although the report indicated a generally favourable view of supportive housing, it found that negative attitudes and reactions are continuing towards the homeless people in Penticton. Some members of the community have concerns about supportive housing because of ongoing incidents of petty theft, property damage, drug use, and disturbance of the peace near the three locations. Those concerns have likely bolstered public backlash, it says.

READ MORE: First-time homebuyers with 2 incomes, no kids priced out of Penticton

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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