City manager: this is a crisis

Penticton’s city manager is speaking out on the community’s mental health, addiction, and homelessness problems, or as he calls it, “a crisis.”

Peter Weeber says the city has been getting buried by complaints, emails and phones calls about vagrancy in the city, but is at a loss about how a small community can tackle such monolithic issues on its own.

“We are receiving a lot of feedback from the community that they don’t think it's acceptable, and I agree. A lot of people are calling it a problem… I’m saying it's a crisis, that needs to be managed accordingly,” Weeber said.

He notes there is no city department for mental health or addictions services, “but we want to be a partner with all the other groups, including the RCMP, Interior Health and other agencies.”

Weeber, who started with the City of Penticton in December, says the fence being proposed for the Gyro Park bandshell is “a symptom of a greater problem.”

While he admits he’s got “more questions than answers,” the CAO is calling for a more collaborative approach that would see local stakeholders and non-profits meet with the RCMP, Interior Health, B.C. Housing and the city regularly to figure out a solution.

Weeber says he has met with the Martin Street Outreach Clinic, Interior Health and B.C. Housing in the last two weeks, and communicates with the local RCMP constantly.

“But everyone seems to be working pretty independently of each other,” he said, pointing to one recent instance where three local groups met and found they were providing overlapping care to the same group of people.

The Penticton RCMP’s new detachment commander, Ted de Jager, is planning a public town hall meeting on a still to be finalized date next month, where Weeber expects local police to take a lot of heat over the problems.

“But it’s not really even a policing issue,” he said, adding they will be pouring $9M into policing next year. “It’s a multi agency issue.”

Weeber remains hopeful a new government in Victoria could bring some new ideas to the table.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a crisis that needs to be handled accordingly,” he said “And that takes the integration or collaboration of multiple agencies and until that happens, this is just going to continue.”


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