Officials in Penticton, B.C., 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 Mr. Horgan urging him to intervene on the city’s behalf as it tries to close the 42-bed shelter in defiance of BC Housing’s application to extend the temporary-use permit for another year.
Mr. Vassilaki hopes Mr. Horgan will help resolve the disagreement with Attorney-General David Eby, who’s also the minister responsible for housing.
Mr. 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 Mr. Vassilaki says residents overwhelmingly support an immediate shutdown.
The mayor says ministry data show Penticton supports shelters, but no such facility is “trouble-free” and this one has become the “epicentre” for crime.
Mr. Vassilaki wants Mr. Horgan to reconsider what he says is Mr. Eby’s “threat” to force the city to continue operating the shelter and instead direct BC 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,” Mr. Vassilaki says in the open letter.
He says the government has not been silent on “provoking and polarizing legitimate concerns,” pointing to a threat by Mr. Eby to bring 1,000 tents and sleeping bags to Penticton if the shelter closes.
In an interview in March, Mr. Eby said he was concerned about Mr. 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.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.