'Very, very disappointed:' Mayor reacts to province's decision to override Penticton on shelter closure | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Very, very disappointed:' Mayor reacts to province's decision to override Penticton on shelter closure

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki is seen in this file photo taken during the 2018 election campaign.
March 18, 2021 - 12:08 PM

The rhetoric continues in the fight between the province and Penticton city council over the decision to close an emergency winter shelter at the end of the month.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki said today, March 18, that he is "very, very disappointed" with Housing Minister David Eby and his agenda.

"He’s not considering the wishes of the City of Penticton, as a matter of fact not going by wishes of the majority of the citizens,” Vassilaki said.

Eby said yesterday the province would override council’s decision to close the emergency shelter, located in the former Victory Church at 352 Winnipeg Street, on March 31. He was responding to council’s decision not to reconsider their original motion of March 2.

B.C. Housing applied and received a temporary use permit to use the church as a temporary location for winter shelter beds last fall and the province wanted to extend the shelter at that location. Council approved the initial permit, with a list of conditions, but denied the extension.

The City said in a media release issued today that it was waiting for formal notification of B.C. Housing’s intentions before initiating further discussions about the emergency shelter.

"Once that correspondence is received, any future course of action concerning the Victory Church shelter will be publicly discussed during a council meeting in April," the release reads.

Vassilaki said the City has offered solutions to finding places to live for the 42 people who will be displaced when the shelter closes but that, "Minister Eby doesn't want to listen to those possibilities."

He said motel owners and faith-based organizations are willing to talk to B.C. Housing about providing accommodation.

“They would be better off than where they are now. Minister Eby has an agenda. I don’t think he really cares about those 42 people. He just wants his agenda to go forward, in my personal opinion,” Vassilaki said.

He went on to say the City would continue the fight with the province.

“We’re not going to take this lying down. We have our bylaws and we’re going to enforce them to the fullest. We’re going to look after the citizens of Penticton and what’s in their best interests,” Vassilaki said.

Councillor Julius Bloomfield also expressed his disappointment with the housing minister's decision.

“Everybody is saying they would like to get back to the table, but I’m not sure who’s not calling who,” Bloomfield said.

He also said the City has worked hard to provide B.C. Housing with options but to his knowledge none of those alternatives have been responded to.

“They obviously want things their own way. I get that, we all want things our own way, but that is what negotiations are all about,” Bloomfield said.

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