Penticton's 100 More Homes collective is throwing its weight behind city council's intention to ask the province for a transparent, third-party evaluation of housing services in the community.
The organization, a collaborative group of community partners, governments and Crown organizations, works to prevent and address homelessness in Penticton.
They penned an open letter supporting council's intention to ask for an audit of three BC Housing supportive projects in town: Burdock House, Compass House and Fairhaven. Council wants the audit completed before it allows a fourth BC Housing project, proposed on Skaha Lake Road.
"While the relationship between the City and the housing sector has sometimes been strained, and it has been difficult to portray the amazing and hard work that occurs in the community, it is reassuring to see the City putting pressure on Provincial bodies to provide the required supports that individuals have long been seeking in this area," reads the letter.
"We are keen to identify that the homelessness serving sector has been doing outstanding work in this area for many years and despite that we continue to see a high level of homelessness and need amongst our cities most vulnerable. This situation calls for change at the highest level."
The organization notes that there are over 100 unhoused people in the city and over 140 on the supportive housing registry. They hope an independent review of existing services will highlight the specialized needs that many of those vulnerable unhoused people have.
"Over time cumulative brain injuries, trauma and experiences result in individuals who need an extremely high level of care in order to sustain housing options. In the current unhoused population around 30 per cent have such needs," they write.
"So 100 More Homes will fully support, to the extent it is allowed, the transparent, and third-party evaluation of existing services, with the hope that this will lead to significant provincial investments in the areas of integrated substance use addictions, mental illness, and physical health supports, and ensure that all residents of Penticton have the care they need."
They hope the audit will lead to a focused, strategic and coordinated approach to the problem involving all stakeholders in the community, rather than public disputes between businesses, council and not-for profits which just distract from the actual issue.
"In addition, 100 More Homes would like to see a centralized intake and screening process that reflects the Built for Zero and Housing First model of best practice incorporating a By Name List [a real-time list of all people experiencing homelessness in the community]," they write.
"These tools will enable the housing sector to provide the care required to the people who need it in the most time responsive manner available."
Read their full letter here.