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Survey asks Pentictonites if they want to take legal action over Victory Church shelter

Letter sent to shelter operator saying they need to work with city to relocate tenants
The city asking the public if they want to pursue legal action against the province and their decision to override the city on the Victory Church issue. (Jesse Day - Western News)

Penticton city council is asking the public if they want to legally challenge the province for overriding the city’s decisions around the Victory Church homeless shelter.

In an unanimous vote at a special meeting held Wednesday afternoon, council approved bringing a survey to the public. The survey began March 31 and will end April 10.

City council said they have had overwhelming support for their decision to let the temporary permit expire for the homeless shelter at Victory Church. The city is prepared to exercise its right to challenge the province in court after BC Housing minister David Eby override city council using the province’s paramountcy powers.

However, this course of action is not without significant challenges and, based on legal advice, would require the city spend from $200,000 to $300,000, said the report from staff.

The public survey is available online or by phone.

To access the survey, go here.

“By their nature, difficult decisions trigger considerable feedback. The matter of the Victory Church shelter is no exception and to date Penticton council has received mostly consistent support for its March 2 decision,” said Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki.

The mayor urged people on both sides of the issue to ‘really educate themselves’ before taking the survey.

Until the survey is completed and the results presented back to council, the city will take no immediate legal action.

However, the city sent a letter to Penticton & District Society for Community Living notifying them that, as of April 2, their temporary use permit expires and ‘they should be working with the city to relocate residents to alternative accommodations.’

Tony Laing, CEO of PDSCL said on Monday that the shelter will continue its focus on caring for the tenants of the 42-bed shelter under the guidance of BC Housing.

READ MORE: Shelter operator urges compassion for shelter users

The city has also sent a letter to the building owner, Pentictonia Holdings Ltd, advising them that their property at 352 Winnipeg Street has triggered 12 service calls to the the city’s bylaw department since the beginning of 2021.

The city said in the letter that they want to work with the owner on ‘solutions to making this property less susceptible to the types of calls being received and help reduce instances of nuisance complaints from the surrounding neighbours.’

“Amongst all the attention this issue has generated, it’s critical to note that, by way of the province’s provided data, when it comes to creating solutions for the homeless and working with our partners to address housing, no city has provided more supportive housing per capita than Penticton,” said Vassilaki.

Before the vote, coun. Frank Reghr pointed to the promise of wrap-around services that BC Housing gave when Penticton had supportive housing brought in.

“Ask Wellness, who runs Burdock House, did a study of their residents and 17 per cent living in B.C. Housing have needs that far exceed their services so it spills into the community for police, fire and bylaw to deal with,” he said. “The Ministry of Health needs to give us support and help because these needs are more than a city can provide.”

The situation has left police and fire ‘run ragged,’ he said.

After the vote, Coun. Judy Sentes made a motion to be sent to both SILGA (Southern Interior Local Government Association) and Union of BC Municipalities asking for other municipalities to stand behind stopping the provincial government from overriding city decisions.

READ ALSO: Urgent Care Centre opens on Martin Street

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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