Penticton city council wants to shelter local citizens first before helping those who have travelled from out of town and are experiencing homelessness.
A motion, first introduced by Coun. Julius Bloomfield on Feb. 2, was approved at city council’s last meeting on Feb. 16.
The motion reads, “the City of Penticton has been a willing partner in housing the homeless, but continues to be asked for more and the level of homelessness continues to escalate despite the building of new housing units for those in need.”
The motion goes onto say there may be an element of transient people coming to Penticton in the hope of finding housing. Therefore, the city will convey to the various agencies that provide shelter to the homeless to prioritize shelter spaces to Indigenous peoples and those who have resided in Penticton for more than one year.
According to previous data from the community support group 100 More Homes, 88 per cent of identified homeless individuals have been in Penticton from three to 20 years, with 16 per cent of them being in Penticton for over 20 years.
The motion carried in a 4-2 vote with coun. Katie Robinson and coun. Judy Sentes opposed.
“We need to send a message to the three groups: first the provincial government to pressure them to find some solutions as we are the main centre for the homeless to come to,” said Bloomfield before the vote.
“Second, the public needs to know we are being consistent and proactive in dealing with this issue and thirdly to the shelter providers that we are expecting them to show preference to those who have been a consistent problem,” he said.
Mayor John Vassilaki agreed with the motion.
“We have to take care of our longtime Penticton residents no matter what their lifestyles are. They are in dire situations.”
The mayor went on to say that the shelter providers know who is who on the streets and 100 More Homes Penticton is now putting a name to faces to identify who is accessing housing services.
“It won’t be difficult to find out who has lived here more than a year,” Vassilaki said.
Last month, the city asked the provincial government to do a third-party audit of Penticton’s existing supportive housing for the homeless, explaining that Penticton has done more than its fair share of helping.
City council wants other communities in South Okanagan to share the load, with the idea that many from out of town come to Penticton to find shelter. Summerland, Peachland, Osoyoos, Oliver and Keremeos are without any form of homeless shelter.
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