Penticton's new housing project sees fatality, more issues

Housing project's rocky start

Chelsea Powrie

It's been a rocky start for Penticton's newest supportive housing project, which has seen a death of a tenant and two others kicked out for security concerns in its first two months of operation. 

Burdock House is run by Ask Wellness Society, and executive director Bob Hughes is the first to acknowledge that the project hasn't had a completely smooth liftoff. 

"It isn't all rainbows and lollipops, as we know" Hughes said. "It's been a learning curve for all of us, but it's desperately needed for the community."

The complex opened in early October with some construction still needed, Hughes said. 

"The rationale for that was just some of the sheer desperation for housing in the community," he explained. "So that's been a bit of a challenge, we had 62 people in within the first week of opening, and that's a big addition to the neighbourhood." 

Hughes said his staff at Burdock have had to evict two people since opening due to concerns that their behaviour was not conducive to security and safety in the community. He and the BC Coroners Service confirmed a tenant died there in late October, with the corner confirming he was in his 30s but unable to give more details as the investigation is ongoing. 

"Many of the people that we are providing services to are very compromised with their health, whether that be chronic illnesses or having severe addictions," Hughes said. 

But Burdock House is still committed to its cause of helping street-entrenched individuals in Penticton get back on their feet. And the bright side is, so far, the neighbourhood has been accepting and it hasn't been causing problems, according to authorities. 

City bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert said they have not seen an uptick in complaint calls from the area since the facility opened. They also have seen a small dent in the number of people they see sleeping on the streets. 

"Burdock is definitely doing a great job, and the City has noticed, with our community safety officers, that a few less rough sleepers are in the area," Siebert said. "But we are finding there are some new people that are arriving that we aren't sure are Penticton residents."

Const. James Grandy of Penticton RCMP said they "support Burdock House" and "routinely meet with staff and residents, and have also met with neighbours of the complex to address their concerns."

Hughes said the goals of the project, which provides mental health and addictions services on site, have never been more important, in a climate of increasing overdose numbers and a housing shortage. 

"We need to really take a stronger approach to providing services to those who are really deeply addicted in the community," he said. 

Burdock House is operating at full capacity with 62 tenants and a waiting list. 

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