Penticton community members met to discuss efforts to help Penticton’s homeless population, and move forward on the preliminary steps toward a one-stop-shop homeless shelter.
“All levels were represented,” said Mike Forster, with Keep the Cold Off Penticton, a group started only two months ago by Forster, a nursing student at Sprott Shaw.
He sat at the table in St. Saviour’s Church hall Thursday with area MP Richard Cannings, City of Penticton bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert, Marnie Verg of Lighthouse Penticton, Minister at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Colin Cross, Kerri Milton of the Downtown Penticton Association, representatives from the Downtown Church Association for Social Justice and many more who came together for the second time this month to discuss moving ahead on a homeless shelter, and ways to support those living without homes.
Verg said there are currently 40-50 people in Penticton living on the streets in Penticton.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit attended a similar meeting last week offering his support, and Forster is going to be meeting with him Friday.
“This is all so new to us, we’re students, we’re learning and my care packages have turned into this,” Forster said, referring to the care packages containing toiletries and essentials like socks that he has been distributing himself to the homeless on Wednesday nights.
Milton suggested talking to city planning to look at acquiring a piece of property, and looking for grant funding, which the group agreed would be the next steps forward for the project.
“It seems like more people are coming to the table. We’re not all in separate areas anymore. We’re combining our efforts to move forward which is what we need,” Forster said. “This is the second (meeting) I’ve been to and I think we’re making big strides ahead now.”
He compared the proposed shelter to the physical embodiment of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for the homeless.
“You got to get shelter, housing, a roof over your head. From there we want to peel the layers. Why are they addicted to alcohol or street drugs? Was there abuse issues? Molestation? Is there psychiatric problems? Have they been undiagnosed with psychiatric problems?” Forster said.
Education, training, keeping up on medication and being able to afford medication are other issues Forster sees the shelter tackling.
Cannings offered three ways he could support the initiative right away. Providing letters of support was one, which are crucial when applying for grants for a project like this.
“It doesn’t have to be MPs or MLAs, but if we can get people in other groups to write a letter of support to show that you are a legitimate organization the community is behind, so that’s one thing I can easily do,” Cannings said.
He said his office could assist by tasking his staff with finding different sources of federal funds, finding out how to access those funds or pitch the project.
“In the long term the Liberals are promising a big increase in what they are calling social infrastructure, which I assume would fit with projects like this,” Cannings said.