Penticton council to help fund emergency winter shelter

Emergency shelter opening

The City of Penticton will be providing an emergency winter shelter space this season, and will work with BC Housing on a long-term agreement for future needs.

The decision comes on the heels of a request from 100 More Homes, which sent letters to council and BC Housing urging them to guarantee a winter shelter this year and work together in future. Approximately 166 people are experiencing homelessness in the city, as of the 2023 count.

The city has, in recent years, dealt with inconsistencies in winter shelter operations and locations, and the previous council got into a public political fight over a downtown emergency shelter in 2021.

“We want to thank the city council for taking this step this year to provide a space that will provide people a warm space during the coldest nights of the year,” said Linda Sankey, co-chair of 100 More Homes, in a press release issued Friday.

”We have exhausted all the options currently available and the city’s willingness to recognize the human need to provide care and to facilitate a long-term plan with BC Housing are key strides as we seek to deal with the crisis on our streets.”

The 30-bed shelter will be located at 1704 Government Street, which is the future site of a planned ambitious large-scale housing project, leased by the city for roughly $20,000 from December to March 31, 2024.

BC Housing will cover operations costs, and the Penticton and Area Overdose Prevention Society will provide those operations.

“100 More Homes has been working diligently to try and come to a resolution that would ensure those experiencing homelessness are provided proper care when the temperatures drop to dangerous levels,” said Mayor Julius Bloomfield.

“With temperatures dropping, council felt it appropriate to make sure these members of our community will have a place to stay on the coldest nights and provide space for this year while future arrangements are explored.”

Next steps will be council working with BC Housing on a Memorandum of Understanding ahead of next winter, including:

  • Establishing regular meetings to identify short and long-term goals
  • Creating a sustainable winter plan for the 2024-25 season
  • Formalizing data coordination and sharing

“One of council’s priorities is building strong community partnerships, so an agreement with BC Housing that provides clarity for all the partners involved – including from 100 More Homes – is very much needed,” Bloomfield said.

“We all have the same objectives and by working together we can make them reality. The goal is to avoid scrambling for space next year and have a solid plan in place for emergency and longer-term housing needs.”

Residents near the winter shelter will receive a letter explaining how the shelter operates. It is not open nightly, but is triggered by "extreme weather," meaning:

  • Temperatures that are at or "feel like" -5 C or below
  • Wind chill
  • Snowstorm of more than five centimetres
  • Freezing rain of more than five millimetres for three consistent days
  • Other inclement weather

The shelter will open at 8 p.m. on days that meet those criteria, and provide a sleeping mat and storage for personal belongings plus a warm meal, and breakfast the next morning. It will be closed by 10 a.m.

Trained staff will be on site at all times during operations.

100 More Homes is moving forward with its own other plans this winter with community partners, including daytime warming centres within city facilities and extra funds for assertive outreach gear.

BC Housing also operates a 73-bed shelter at Compass Court, which runs year-round.

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