Canada

Penticton council writes letter to premier seeking intervention in shelter dispute

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki has written an open letter to Horgan urging him to intervene on the city’s behalf as it tries to close the 42-bed shelter in defiance of B.C. Housing’s application to extend the temporary-use permit for another year.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki has written an open letter to Horgan urging him to intervene on the city’s behalf as it tries to close the 42-bed shelter in defiance of B.C. Housing’s application to extend the temporary-use permit for another year.

PENTICTON — Officials in Penticton are appealing to Premier John Horgan in the latest twist in a bitter dispute over a temporary shelter in the Okanagan city.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki has written an open letter to Horgan urging him to intervene on the city’s behalf as it tries to close the 42-bed shelter in defiance of B.C. Housing’s application to extend the temporary-use permit for another year.

Vassilaki hopes Horgan will help resolve the disagreement with Attorney General David Eby, who’s also the minister responsible for housing.

Eby has said the province needs more time to find long-term homes for the shelter residents and could use its authority to prevent Penticton from closing the facility, but Vassilaki says residents overwhelmingly support an immediate shutdown.

The mayor says ministry data shows Penticton supports shelters, but no such facility is “trouble-free” and this one has become the “epicentre” for crime.

Vassilaki wants Horgan to reconsider what he says is Eby’s “threat” to force the city to continue operating the shelter and instead direct B.C. Housing to use Penticton’s solutions to find a better location.

“Your government has been silent on the negative impact the shelter has had on vulnerable senior citizens, particularly on two seniors’ residences directly across the street,” says Vassilaki in the open letter.

He says the government has not been silent on “provoking and polarizing legitimate concerns,” pointing to a threat by Eby to bring 1,000 tents and sleeping bags to Penticton if the shelter closes.

In an interview in March, Eby said he was concerned about Vassilaki’s comments that the city might consider legal options if the province used its power to keep shelter doors open past the March 31 deadline.

“That seems like a colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars to go to court to try to throw 42 people onto the street,” he said.

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