After failing to get Penticton city council’s backing for a supportive housing project in the south end of the city, B.C. Housing is back with a new location in the core.
They selected 594 and 600 Winnipeg St., flanked on one side by the Christian Science Church and on the other by St. Saviour’s Anglican Church.
Rev. Nicholas Pang, who recently took over as pastor of St. Saviour’s, said he’s encouraged by the staff support built into the project.
“I think it is going to be good for the neighbourhood overall,” said Pang.
The project features 62 units, for residents who are either experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. When completed, the building will be operated by ASK Wellness, a non-profit housing group that will staff the building 24/7 to provide support services, including access to mental health and addiction recovery programs, life and employment skills training.
Being right between two churches offers another level of support.
“I think that spiritual support is our primary goal, and the best thing we have to offer, but we also have the Soupateria on site, we also have a free store,” said Pang. “There is a lot of social support.”
Pang isn’t concerned that having the supportive housing next door will discourage parishioners.
“If anything, I think it will help,” said Pang. “I think having stable housing available for people … it will help people feel a lot safer than sometimes having people in an unfortunate situation right on the church property.”
Bob Hughes, executive director of ASK Wellness, said he was also asked about who will be living in the building.
“I think that has been a really important question for people,” he said, explaining the building is designed for single individuals, from 19 to 90 years of age.
“They are not big apartments by any stretch,” said Hughes. “We are looking at folks that are in the community that are in need of housing, whether they are homeless currently or at risk of homelessness.”
The ideal, he continued, would be to have a range of residents from those with complex to minimal needs.
“We are trying to create a tapestry of people in the building that are balanced,” said Hughes. “That is what we have learned in our operations, is you can’t just bring in all the people that have serious issues and expect them to get well. You need to have a wide range.”
He said they’re not concerned about finding a range of residents, given the lack of affordable housing in Penticton for a range of demographics.
What the building won’t be is drug and alcohol free. Hughes said it would be unrealistic to say that.
“You can’t control what people do in their private units, in their apartments,” said Hughes.
“What we will be monitoring is the behavior, whether it is drug-related, alcohol-related or just people have a bad attitude, that is what we hold people accountable for in terms of their behavior in the building.
“Our approach is pay your rent and be decent folks.”
RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager said his experience has been this kind of housing reduces crime rather than driving it.
“People that need this type of facility are not the people that are crime drivers in our community. They are people that are vulnerable and need support,” said De Jager. “It’s not just the homeless people, it is people that are working that just need a hand, need a place to stay and a place to work from and develop.”
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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