The province will be following through and using its paramountcy powers to keep Penticton’s Victory Church shelter open.
Minister David Eby announced that the province would be following through on its promise to utilize its powers to keep the 42 residents of the shelter from being turned out onto the street following Penticton council’s decision, on Tuesday, to reject the permit extension for a second time.
“I’ll be blunt, people across the province wonder why Penticton would be turning out 40-plus people living in a homeless shelter into a local park, especially seeing what’s happening in Victoria and Vancouver and Nanaimo,” said Eby. “I have no doubt when the province uses authorities like these, people in local communities like Penticton look at that with concern and rightly so. I dislike it less than an encampment forming in Penticton.”
During council’s decision on Tuesday, the Mayor made comments that raised some eyebrows in the community, when he expressed that the money going towards the shelter might be better spent funding Riverview Hospital, which has been under reconstruction since 2017 after having been closed in 2013.
“We are in agreement that the money could be better spent than on an emergency shelter with limited capacity and services,” said Eby. “It is not an option to take everybody from the homeless shelter in Penticton and move them to the Riverview Hospital. That’s not something that happens in British Columbia in 2021.”
To address the growing issues with mental health and addiction among those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, BC Housing has been working on complex care buildings that would provide more dedicated support for people who are unable to be housed in even supportive housing. Eby noted that Kamloops and Kelowna had been two cities at the forefront of calls for such housing.
Despite not owning the property that the shelter is currently operating out of, Eby said that he had been assured BC Housing was on solid legal ground with invoking the Interpretation Act, and that if Penticton council tries to withhold authorizing a building permit for Skaha Lake Road that the province would be legally clear to override the city again.
Even with an admittedly tense relationship, Eby said that he hopes to hear from council on how to address homelessness in the community beyond the current situation.
“I’m very interested in having a discussion at the political level with Penticton about how we move forward, given they don’t want the shelter open past the end of March, and from my perspective, it’s simply non-negotiable that about turning the people from the shelter out into the parks. So, if we could get past this one issue I do think we could work with each other. “
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