A Vernon councillor is calling for a review and temporary suspension of local supportive housing projects, putting him at odds with the city’s leading supportive housing organization.
In a notice of motion, Coun. Scott Anderson plans to request council to support a City of Penticton motion, which calls for an independent audit of BC Housing-funded projects.
Specifically, the motion requested that the province hire a third party to audit one specific Penticton BC Housing project to see if “sufficient actions had been taken to support those in need of housing and what the impact of these housing projects have been on the community,” as reads the notice of motion in the city’s agenda for council Monday (Feb. 22).
The motion also requests that BC Housing not apply for a development at 3240 Skaha Lake Road until the audit is completed and made public, and that an audit of the city’s entire BC Housing stock be done.
Stipulations for the audit include that it use an independent third party to find which psychiatric services are currently offered at Vernon supportive housing locations, if any, as well as wait times to access them. The audit would need to provide an impact assessment for surrounding areas, and a “measurable account of outcomes of patients in the existing projects.”
Anderson’s rationale is that council has “little to no information” from BC Housing on need assessments, mental health support programs in place, or expectations for people staying in the residences.
“It is unclear what method BC Housing uses to determine need for services locally,” his motion states, while adding that there also needs to be an impact assessment on Vernon’s “significant and vulnerable” seniors population in areas near these projects.
In response, Turning Points Collaborative Society took to Facebook to voice its opposition to the motion. Vernon’s largest organization for supportive housing and outreach services, Turning Points responded to Coun. Anderson’s motion with a call to arms.
“We believe that this motion would do nothing more than cause disruption in our community’s strong relationship with BC Housing, create a distraction for city staff and elected officials, cost the province an enormous amount of money, and potentially put vulnerable lives at risk,” the society’s Feb. 19 post states.
Turning Points further argues the audit will impose unnecessary hurdles for a service that has recently shown positive results, at the expense of provincial taxpayers.
“We all know how effective and transformative My Place supportive housing is for residents, and that the access to services provided there has changed many lives. We also know that in the past several years, homelessness and crime in our city is down, and that access to housing has been the key contributor,” the post reads.
“Homelessness on our streets is down. Crime on our streets is down. Why question something that is working so well?”
The motion will be decided on at council’s Monday (Feb. 22) regular meeting.
In the meantime, Turning Points urged the public to review the motion on the City of Vernon council agenda web portal, and to contact city councillors to give them their thoughts.