A temporary winter shelter for those experiencing homelessness in Penticton could be staying around longer than originally planned.
BC Housing has sent an application to the City of Penticton to extend the use of Victory Church as a shelter space until March 31, 2022.
The space was originally intended to be used as an emergency winter shelter until April 1, 2021.
City staff will present BC Housing’s application to council on Tuesday, March 2 and recommend they choose between one of two options.
The first option given by staff is that council deny BC Housing’s request on the spot; the second option is that council direct staff to begin public consultation and consider the request in an upcoming meeting.
The Victory Church shelter was first approved by council in October, 2020 as a temporary winter shelter providing up to 42 beds for people experiencing homelessness.
The need for the shelter came as Penticton’s permanent winter shelter at Compass Court on Main Street was not able accommodate the usual number of people due to COVID-19 public health orders.
BC Housing cites the need for additional shelter space due to COVID-19 as well as the general need for shelter space in the community in their application to keep Victory Church operating as a shelter for an additional year.
100 More Homes Penticton has estimated there is at least 100 people living in Penticton without access to shelter.
If the application to keep the shelter open until March 2020 is approved the shelter would continue to operate with the same staffing and oversight from Penticton and District Society for Community living (PDSCL) that it currently has.
When the shelter was originally approved council heard concern from neighbouring residents and businesses.
Council noted that they were ‘sympathetic’ to these concerns. However, they ultimately approved the shelter after considering the pandemic and upcoming winter season. Council also felt that BC Housing had “provided limited to no other options.”
During the initial approval, council “inferred” that a different location was to be identified next year if Compass House could not return to its pre-COVID capacity.
If council chooses to deny the request for an extension next week it would avoid “creating additional anxiety to the neighbourhood that public notification could create,” city staff said in their report to council.
If the application is denied, city staff would be directed to tell BC Housing and PDSCL that they are expected to cease operations at the shelter April 1, 2021. The property could still be used as a hygiene centre and COVID-19 isolation centre.
If council chooses to direct staff to do public consultation, staff would send letters to all properties within a 45 metre radius of Victory Church to notify people of the application for a year-long extension.
Staff would also prepare a technical report with analysis and a recommendation with options for council to consider at their next meeting. Staff would also, likely, invite BC Housing and/or PDSCL in to present to council and be available to answer questions from council on the proposal.
Regardless of if council chooses to deny the application or explore it further, staff will also recommend that council develop a criteria to help determine which areas are best suited for shelters in the future.
As Penticton currently does not have an identified plan for shelter locations it can make it difficult for service providers like BC Housing, Interior Health, the Province, and others to understand the city’s expectations when selecting a location for a shelter or housing, said city staff in their report.
Kelowna is currently developing their own criteria for shelter location selection.