The new Skaha project will be modelled after the Burdock House, a BC Housing project that opened on Winnipeg St. in 2019. (BC Housing)

Penticton mayor and MLA concerned about new homeless housing

BC Housing is holding a virtual info meeting Tuesday evening, Jan. 19

Concerns are mounting about BC Housing’s plan to put in supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness on Skaha Lake Rd.

City Mayor John Vassilaki is against any new BC Housing projects for the homeless in Penticton for now.

“The city has more than its share of supportive housing for the homeless. BC Housing has to show us a need assessment for this new project. So far, they haven’t done that.”

Vassilaki said BC Housing made the announcement about the Skaha project in December before they even discussed it with city council or the surrounding residents.

“Speaking for myself here, not council, I don’t want to see Penticton turn into ghettos. BC Housing has the motels for the homeless in Skaha, they have the motels along Main St., projects on Martin and Winnipeg St. Are these really helping people with their addictions or mental health? BC Housing doesn’t seem to get to the root of the problem. They just put a Band-aid on it.”

Vassilaki said it’s time other towns in the South Okanagan step up.

“It’s about fairness. I think we’ve done our fair share,” he said. “We have many people coming to Penticton from other communities because they know we are the city with all the housing supports. Why don’t some of those communities have supportive housing?”

In December, BC Housing announced that it would be building a 52-unit housing project to house the homeless and those at risk of being homeless. The planned four-storey development will be located at 3240 Skaha Lake Road and will have on-site staff present 24/7 to provide meals, training, and support services, according to the release from the B.C. government.

READ MORE: New BC Housing announced for Skaha area

What Vassilaki would like to see is BC Housing provide affordable housing for families.

“The way things are right now for young families, they can’t afford rent here and children are living in not the best housing because that’s all their parents can afford. We need to help all aspects of society, not just the one.”

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton also has concerns about the BC Housing projects here, including the Skaha one.

“This is a sensitive issue for all. But let’s work together to get the bugs out of what isn’t working in the existing supportive housing before we build a new one,” said Ashton.

Ashton and the mayor have received numerous complaints over the past two years from residents and business owners about the current BC Housing projects in the city.

“Let’s find out if the services to help people in this housing is available as was promised. Let’s find out what support people are getting in there if any. I’m a firm believer in giving a hand up but not just a handout,” said Ashton.

READ MORE: Compass House ready for winter weather

Ashton wants BC Housing to work together with the city and the community to make the projects work for everyone “not just the some.”

In 2018, the City of Penticton turned down 52 units of supportive housing that was to be built in the city’s south end at 179 Green Ave. BC Housing will be hosting a virtual community information session on Tuesday, Jan. 19, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

The Skaha Lake Rd. project will come to city council eventually. That date isn’t known as of yet. BC Housing said construction could start in spring.



monique.Tamminga@pentictonwesternnews.com

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