The temporary permit for the Victory Church shelter expires today, March 31.
City council has vowed to stick to the March 31 deadline, while BC Housing minister David Eby has stepped in to use the province’s paramountcy powers to override the city and keep the emergency shelter running.
For Tony Laing, CEO of Penticton And District Society for Community Living (PDSCL), the organization that operates the Victory Church shelter, he is focused on continuing to provide shelter and care for the tenants.
“The temporary permit is an issue between two levels of government and we will leave it to the city and province to sort out. PDSCL is committed to providing shelter services that BC Housing is funding,” said Laing.
The shelter on Winnipeg Street has been full every night, he said.
“More than 70 individuals will use Victory shelter throughout the month,” he said.
The Victory Church shelter has been a divisive issue right now in Penticton, but Laing hopes some compassion and understanding can prevail from the community.
“Treating the homeless and those less fortunate than ourselves as something to be feared is not working,” he said. “Perhaps if we changed our attitudes and approached this issue like thousands of staff and volunteers do every day, treat them as fellow human beings. It doesn’t take special training or skills to be a decent person.”
If these tenants of Victory Church were pushed out April 1, as the city would like, Laing wonders where they would go.
“The majority will become rough sleepers,” Laing replied.
A “point in time count” will be done next week to get a more accurate count of those experiencing homelessness in Penticton.
Last year, a count couldn’t be done because of COVID-19.
Daryl Meyers from Pathways is the local coordinator of the count.
“We already know 120 individuals by name that used the Compass House and Victory Shelters in January and February,” said Laing. The PDSCL also operates Compass House.
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