BC Housing will have to wait to hear if they will be able to open an emergency winter shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Penticton.
Penticton council, in their Oct. 6 meeting, delayed a decision on a proposal for a temporary land use permit for Victory Church at 352 Winnipeg Street to be used as an emergency shelter over the winter. In a five to one decision mayor and council voted to postpone making a decision on the shelter until they are able to meet with Penticton and District Society for Community Living (PDSCL) at an upcoming council meeting.
Support of the proposal for the facility proved to contentious among councillors and the mayor. Ultimately, council decided the proposal, as it stood, did not contain enough information to approve or disapprove the permit.
Mitigating factors to some of the councillors’ opposition was BC Housing’s commitment to providing security for the facility, and the fact that the location would be only temporary for six months.
BC Housing and the PDSCL found the Winnipeg Street location most suitable after researching other spaces in Penticton. They are requesting a temporary permit for a six-month period.
“You can’t move a facility like this to the outskirts, because that’s not where the homeless people are,” said Counc. Judy Sentes.
Counc. Katie Robinson expressed safety concerns regarding the location: “…I think the residents in this neighbourhood are already under siege.”
Mayor John Vassilaki echoed Robinson’s concerns about both the proposed emergency shelter, as well as existing shelters and transitional housing in Penticton.
“Even those ones that are there now, somebody should be accountable for what’s happening to the neighbourhood and the businesses surrounding those spaces. It’s getting out of hand,” said Vassilaki.
The permit would allow operation from October 2020 through to April 2021.
Councillor Campbell Watt was the only councillor opposed to the motion to delay the decision.
Council extended the invitation to the executive director of the PDSCL to appear at the next council meeting on Oct. 20.