Social issues spike in Penticton as emergency shelters close for the season | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Social issues spike in Penticton as emergency shelters close for the season

A spike in social issues and an increase in reports of discarded needles and other items in the streets has been noted by the city and RCMP following the shut down of Penticton's winter shelters at the end of March.
April 11, 2019 - 5:00 PM

PENTICTON - The closure of Penticton’s emergency winter shelters appears to have resulted in an increase in social issues and crime downtown.

Both the City of Penticton and Penticton RCMP report a spike in anti-social behaviours following the closure of the city's emergency shelters on the last weekend in March.

Penticton RCMP spokesperson Const. James Grandy said in an email last week the emergency shelter closings left many of the homeless on the street with nowhere to go.

“We are working with our partner agencies such as the Salvation Army, B.C. Housing and Interior Health, along with increasing our patrols to deal with the issue,” he said.

City bylaw enforcement supervisor Tina Siebert says the city’s bylaw officers also saw a spike in activity since the last weekend in March, with some homeless people suddenly more visible in the community and conflicts arising.

She said the condition wasn’t isolated to just the downtown as officers are dealing with complaints from all over the city. She says the complaints are related to discarded material being left behind, including shopping carts, discarded needles, etc.

The city's plan to deal with the issue involves two new recently hired bylaw positions for community safety officers.

“Their role will be to respond to those social issues related to safety, security and cleanliness, by dealing with the individuals causing that type of behaviour,” Siebert says.

She says the position will involve the officers getting to know the individuals, developing a rapport with them and getting them the support and help they need to get out of their situation.

A number of the city’s social housing projects are slated for a September opening.

Siebert says the city is anxiously awaiting the completion of those units.

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