A property crime map for the month of March shows the hot spot for crimes is centered around the area where the Victory Church homeless shelter is located. (City Submitted)

A property crime map for the month of March shows the hot spot for crimes is centered around the area where the Victory Church homeless shelter is located. (City Submitted)

B.C. Premier asked to intervene in Penticton homeless shelter dispute

Mayor sends letter urging premier to reconsider Eby’s use of paramountcy powers

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki is urging Premier John Horgan to ‘immediately intervene’ in the Victory Church homeless shelter dispute.

City council has sent a letter hoping Horgan will reverse Minister of Housing David Eby’s use of provincial paramountcy powers to continue operating the shelter on Winnipeg Street.

The shelter was opened as a temporary winter shelter to accommodate better spacing because of COVID-19. The city allowed a permit, reluctantly, on the condition that the permit to accommodate the shelter would expire March 31.

Eby stepped in and used provincial powers to override the city and the shelter has been operating ever since. Last week, Penticton RCMP said of all its calls for service to the four shelters in Penticton, by far the highest calls go to Victory Church. A crime map for March shows that the hot spot for most crimes is centered around the shelter.

The operator of the shelter, Penticton and District Society of Community Living, told the Western News that it will continue operating, following provincial direction after the city sent them a letter to shut the shelter down and relocate the residents.

The city’s next step if Horgan doesn’t reply to sue the provincial government.

Here is the letter from the mayor:

On behalf of a united Penticton City Council and the citizens they serve, Mayor John Vassilaki has sent the following letter to Premier John Horgan requesting immediate intervention concerning his government’s threat to invoke Provincial Paramountcy to maintain an unlawful temporary winter shelter in Penticton.

Dear Premier Horgan,

I am writing on behalf of the citizens of Penticton urging you to resolve the impasse between City residents and the Attorney General and Minister of Housing, David Eby. Penticton voters have expressed overwhelming support in two surveys for you to step in and work with City Council to correct the Minister’s handling of a temporary winter shelter located in the downtown core.

Penticton residents care about housing for those in need. The proof is evident from our past experience working with Provincial Ministers and BC Housing. Our city of 33,000 helps provide 1,906 provincially-funded units of non-market housing. This housing is the result of positive partnerships that reflect the very spirit of your own commitment to work with local municipalities.

However, under Minister Eby’s leadership, your government has changed course on cooperating with local communities. The Minister has misinformed British Columbians by inferring that Penticton is not doing its part in supportive housing. This is despite his own Ministry’s data indicating that Penticton has the highest number of supportive beds per capita in the B.C. interior.

Your government has been silent on the negative impact the shelter has had on vulnerable senior citizens, particularly on two seniors’ residences directly across the street. A crime density map shows that the shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street has become the epicentre for property crime in Penticton. This is a costly drain on police, fire and bylaw resources as well as being harmful to surrounding residents and businesses.

Your government has not been silent, however, on provoking and polarizing legitimate concerns. Minister Eby threatened to bring 1,000 tents and sleeping bags into the City when the shelter’s permit for lawful use in winter expired. It is odd that the Province’s top lawyer is silent on protecting vulnerable senior citizens from crime but vocal on encouraging Provincial action which directly inflicts such crime on those same senior citizens.

While there’s never a problem-free shelter location, integrating a shelter into surrounding neighbourhoods can be successful when Provincial leadership listens to the public and local concerns. Solving problems for one group should never bring harm or risk of safety to another. The goal should be to work together to find a better shelter location.

Penticton’s united City Council, along with thousands of residents who share our concerns, do not believe that your government is listening. We hope you will. We request your intervention to ensure the Province returns to working in partnership with Penticton and other municipalities to solve the housing issues. What may work in Victoria for temporary housing does not necessarily work for the rest of B.C.

As a start, please reconsider Minister Eby’s threat to invoke Provincial paramountcy to maintain an unlawful use of the shelter and instead direct BC Housing to apply solutions already suggested by City staff to find a better location, as Penticton Council requested in October 2020.

Respectfully,

John Vassilaki Mayor of Penticton

Just Posted

A conceptual design of Vernon’s new Active Living Centre, which will go to referendum Oct. 15, 2022. (Rendering)
Active living centre 2022 referendum planned in Vernon

City hoping to get Coldstream and Areas B and C back on board

Vernon’s historic Towne Cinema, opened at its current 30th Avenue location as a dance hall in 1929 and was converted to a movie theatre in 1938. (GoFundMe photo)
Let the show go on: $100,000 raised for Vernon Towne Cinema

The Okanagan Screen Arts Society plans on reopening of the historic cinema after Labour Day

(City of Vernon)
Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
No words to express collective grief: Vernon mayor on 215 buried at residential school

Vernon mayor pens letter to Okanagan Indian Band Chief and council

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Most Read