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City of Penticton seeking public input on fight with province over emergency shelter

City council in Penticton, B.C., is seeking public input on whether to pursue legal action against the province over the emergency shelter on Winnipeg Street.

The controversial downtown shelter has been a recent focal point for council after it denied a request from BC Housing last month to extend the shelter’s temporary lease for another year.

The lease was to expire on March 31, but the province stepped in and overrode council’s decision. That sparked a feud, with council on one side and BC Housing and the provincial government on the other.

Read more:
Penticton emergency shelter to remain open as province overrides city council

Now, the city says it’s mulling the expensive option of fighting the province in court.

According to the city, a survey will take place until April 10 to see if the public thinks it’s worth spending $200,000 to $300,000 to “exercise its right to challenge the province in court.”

“With the goal of obtaining broad-based Penticton resident feedback indicating whether or not the city should challenge the province, council is seeking the community’s opinion by way of a short formal survey, available either online or by phone,” the city said in a press release.

“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.

“However, for council to act in the best interest of the whole community, and in keeping with past community issues involving strong interest or expense, conducting a formalized feedback process is the right thing to do to ensure we hear all perspectives.  Whether you live near the shelter, away from the shelter or in the shelter, please share your feedback.”

Click to play video: Penticton city council mulling options in feud over downtown emergency shelter

The survey can be viewed here. For those without internet access, the phone number is 1-800-296-2237.

The city said, “by way of comments in a majority of received emails and petitions, (council) has heard mostly support for their position on the shelter.”

The city noted that until the survey is completed, it will take no immediate action against the shelter.

Read more:
Protesters erect tent city in downtown Penticton to oppose shelter closure

“However, the public is advised that the shelter operator, Penticton and District Society for Community Living, has been sent a letter notifying them that, as of April 2, 2021, their temporary use permit expires and they should be working with the City to relocate residents to alternative accommodation,” said the city.

It also said a letter has been sent to the building owner, Pentictonia Holdings Ltd., advising them that the shelter has triggered 12 service calls to the bylaw department since the beginning of 2021, “and that the city wishes to work with them 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.”

Click to play video: Province willing to fight Penticton city council over future of downtown winter shelter

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