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Penticton in ‘urgent need’ of care for unhoused with complex needs

Council sending message to Interior Health that ‘residents are suffering in the interim’
Penticton city council is bringing a message to Interior Health that the South Okanagan is in urgent need of complex care housing and supports for unhoused that have multiple needs and health challenges. (File photo)

Penticton is sending a message to Interior Health that it is in ‘urgent need’ of complex care housing for people experiencing homelessness in South Okanagan.

At the Feb. 20 meeting, city council voted unanimously to send a motion for consideration to the 2024 Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) Convention, and that the motion be referred to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen for support.

On Thursday, RDOS board supported the motion.

Complex care housing has been created for people experiencing homelessness who have complex mental health or substance use issues, and who may also be living with other challenges like acquired brain injury, developmental disability, and histories of trauma.

Shelter providers in Penticton have said in the past that their facilities aren’t suitable and not equipped to deal with people with these complex needs.

While complex care has been established in Kelowna and Kamloops with 20 beds respectively, no further action has been taken to support vulnerable individuals in the South Okanagan, said the city’s new public safety director Cheryl Hardisty in her report.

“Our residents are suffering in the interim,” she said.

Penticton is once again left out of Interior Health’s plans when it comes to complex care housing funding.

For sevearl years, Penticton council had to lobby Interior Health to fund the Car 40 program that pairs nurses with RCMP officers to go out to mental health crisis calls. While Interior Health funded the Car 40 program in Kelowna and Kamloops several years ago, it took the mayor going to Victoria to meet with the Premier last year to ask for it to come here.

The program just launched in Penticton in January.

“If we send the message over and over again it seems to have an effect,” said Mayor Julius Bloomfield. “This motion is born out of the frustration I’ve heard from service providers and different groups dealing with people who need the help. I’ve also heard from regular citizens in what they perceive as a lack of action and adequate housing for people that need it.”

Bloomfield went on to say that it seems like Penticton has a louder voice if they bring issues to SILGA and to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“We want to send clear direction to the health authority. It’s a follow-up to work done last year. We had success last year of bringing together service providers,” he said in reference to the Car 40 program which just got underway in the city.

Coun. Helena Konanz wanted to make sure the motion included opportunities for other communities in the South Okanagan to have these services, not just in Penticton.

“I’m very supportive of this. I just want to make sure we share the wealth with the other communities,” she said.

“The province has appointed health authorities as the lead in implementation of complex care and no such plans have been developed in the South Okanagan since the framework was completed in 2022,” said the report to council.

READ MORE: Shelter providers call for changes to homeless response

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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