Stop people from giving food to Penticton homeless people? Politicians 'surprised' by public reaction to idea | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Stop people from giving food to Penticton homeless people? Politicians 'surprised' by public reaction to idea

Penticton Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen Director and Vice Chair of the Okanagan Similkameen Hospital Board says a conversation during the hospital board meeting yesterday, Oct. 18, 2018, was 'misconstrued.'
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October 21, 2018 - 12:00 PM

PENTICTON - Two South Okanagan regional directors are trying to walk back controversial comments this week after openly discussing if they could use health regulations to stop people from giving food to homeless people.

Judy Sentes, one of Penticton’s representatives on the Okanagan Similkameen Hospital Board and area director Michael Brydon say they were surprised by social media reactions to their discussion.

According to the Penticton Herald, Sentes and Brydon wanted board support to ask Interior Health to use food handling regulations to prevent volunteers from feeding homeless people in the downtown core. Board Chair Brydon and Vice-Chair Sentes admitted they had no concerns about food safety, but were looking for help to clean up the downtown core.

That's not how they tell it this morning.

“The point was, there has been a great deal of controversy over the safety of downtown, so our concern was the gathering of people for dinner on Monday nights,” Sentes said today. “What we were trying to get was to relocate that, or find a different strategy to accommodate the feeding of the homeless.”

She says people feeding the homeless there was “exasperating" to the community’s call to make downtown safer.

Sentes asked if it was within Interior Health’s guidelines to inspect the way this food is prepared. She says today her concern was finding a safer way.

“Perhaps a food truck that travels the area... but that was the point, to follow through on safety. The conversation, I fear, has been misconstrued,” she says.

Quotes obtained by the Herald from the meeting present quite a different picture.

Brydon said he understands some downtown business people were upset with the Monday night dinners because it added to the homeless population downtown.

“Judy brought it up, noting we were scheduled to have this chat with Interior Health, and we could maybe ask them,” he says.

They both now say they were actually looking for flexibility on where this food is provided.

“At the end of the (board) discussion, it was concluded it wasn’t a good idea, so I was surprised to find it was an actual story this morning,” Brydon says.

— With reporting from Steve Arstad.

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