The 62 modular units, being constructed by Metric Modular on Winnipeg Street in Penticton, will be ready to house some of the city’s homeless as of September 2019. The building will be operated by ASK Wellness Society once it is completed. (Jordyn Thomson - Western News)

Housing for Penticton’s homeless to be ready September 1

Construction is underway for the 62 modular units on Winnipeg Street

The 62 modular units under construction on Winnipeg Street in Penticton will be ready for tenants this fall.

The project, being constructed by Metric Modular, was expected to be open by spring. The project is part of the province’s push to build supportive housing for the homeless or those at risk. When it opens, it will be managed by the ASK Wellness Society.

“We are anticipating occupancy for Sept. 1. It’s already taken quite some time, and they’re experienced with delivering housing projects, so we’re pretty confident that Sept. 1 (is when) we’ll open up the occupancy of the building,” said Bob Hughes, Ask Wellness executive director.

READ ALSO: 74 needles found in Penticton homeless camp cleanup

The location for supportive housing has been a contentious subject, starting when it was proposed in 2018 for a location near Main Street and Green Avenue. Council at the time voted against rezoning the area, so BC Housing purchased the properties at 594 and 600 Winnipeg St. for the project instead.

City staff and volunteers recently cleaned out a homeless camp established within Esplanade Park, collecting a total of 74 needles. Roughly 20 homeless people were residing in the camp, which has re-established less than a month after it was taken down.

RCMP told the Western News that over the winter homeless shelters were running full time, resulting in fewer nuisance calls in the downtown core. Supt. Ted De Jager said now that the shelters aren’t open full time they are seeing more of the people that were living in those spaces back on the streets.

He said it’s good news the housing projects supported by the city and BC Housing are coming online.

“There might be a bit of a lag there with construction but I think we can see the effect the shelters have had,” said De Jager.

READ ALSO: New location for supportive housing in Penticton

Hughes said ASK Wellness has a good track record with operating housing, noting they take into consideration the neighbours in the area.

The building is flanked by the Christian Science Church on one side and St. Saviour’s Anglican Church, which hosts the Soupateria, on the other.

He explained the building will not be drug and alcohol-free.

“In our experience of operating this type of housing, and really, people in any type of apartment building, they have the right to privacy. The way we look at it is we’re not going to constrict people from consuming alcohol or other substances. That’s not our business necessarily,” said Hughes. “But whether it’s alcohol or drugs if it’s interfering with other people’s privacy or safety—either for residents in the building or people outside—then we’ll address that.”

READ ALSO: Neighbourhood gets chance to quiz supportive housing planners

Hughes said this is not the only project underway in Penticton to address the housing crisis. OneSky Community Resources, Catalyst Community Developments, the City of Penticton and BC Housing are partnering on a project to build 56 affordable housing units at 285 Nanaimo Ave. West. The Western News requested interviews and information about these housing units from OneSky Community Resources but did not hear back by press deadline.

READ ALSO: Construction starts on affordable housing units in Penticton

“This will create, for the first time in the community with these projects online, housing that will be able to support the community, which is a very significant issue in the City of Penticton. I think everybody is just feeling the lack of affordable housing and, particularly, the lack of supportive housing for those struggling to stabilize their mental health and health issues,” said Hughes. “This gives them a place to be to get the services they need. That’s been our goal with the Winnipeg site.”

Hughes said the co-ordinated access table, comprised of “a number of community organizations along with BC Housing,” offers a vulnerability assessment to those in need to determine if this housing is the right fit for them, which is used to select the building’s tenants.

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