PENTICTON - As escalating rents in Penticton are adding to the number homeless people, RV parks are becoming an option.
Several camps were built this past summer up the Carmi Road on Crown land by a number of people who couldn’t find or afford rental accommodations through the summer in Penticton, according to South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society executive director Linda Sankey.
Since summer ended the numbers of those camped on Crown land has dwindled to about 25, most of whom are part of a multi-generational family pushed into their present situation by poverty, she says.
“Even by pooling all their income they can’t find accommodation,” she says. "It’s tragic watching people living on the edge of poverty, just barely making it, and now they’re not."
Every non-profit group in the city has been working together to find a solution, but as rents continue to jump, they can't work fast enough, she says.
Sankey says it's hard to talk about camping on Crown land without any facilities as something reasonable in a first world country.
The brain injury society approached Lavern Jack on the Penticton Indian Band about supporting a few campers in his campground during the summer. Sankey says he kindly accepted a number of them, providing them with a reasonable site much closer to the amenities of the city.
“When those people went up Carmi Road to camp, seasonal rentals available exceeded $100 per night,” she says. Seasonal RV sites also charge more in the summer, but those prices have now come down.
For example, Wright’s Beach Camp office manager Kathy Hoffman says they already have 30 off-season RVs on the resort’s main site, with more on the upper campground. She says the resort has 40 sites ready for winter use, and more that could be utilized as the need arises.
Seasonal costs range from $700 to $800 monthly, depending on how payment is made. Cost includes electrical hook-up, cable, Wi-Fi and other amenities.
At Oxbow RV Resort, managers Betty and Larry Douglas say eight of the 16 winter sites were utilized in the last two years. They rent for $600 per month, plus hydro.
The Brain Injury Society, one of Penticton’s largest subsidized housing providers, has been conducting a homeless outreach program as well as a homeless prevention program in the city.
In the past couple of years, however, changing market conditions have strained local resources and the means of those at the lowest income levels to find shelter.
“Most of the people we support are from the Okanagan, sometimes they travel up and down the valley, from Vernon, Osoyoos, even Princeton,” Sankey says.
She says the number of homeless people in Penticton is up, almost double in less than a year, from 203 individuals in November 2016 to 390 as of last week.
“The number of homeless is increasing due to poverty issues. Here in Penticton, long time tenancies have suddenly had their rent increased and they can no longer afford to stay there."
Sometimes a landlord planning a renovation evicts the tenant who can't afford another place to live. Sankey says she heard a case where a landlord threatened a so-called 'reno-viction' if the tenant didn't agree to an illegal rental increase of $300 a month.
Sankey says recent construction and local efforts to improve the housing supply have provided a much-needed boost to the market but demand continues to outstrip supply.
Two new apartment blocks opened on Duncan Avenue in July and it created a shift as people moved into the new apartments, making room for others in the units they vacated.
"Unfortunately there are only so many vacancies for non-profit housing and the wait lists are astronomically long."
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