The City of Penticton recognizes the important role shelters play in the overall supply of housing solutions for our most vulnerable residents. Successfully locating shelters within the make-up of existing neighbourhoods is a challenging undertaking that requires genuine cooperation and joint decision-making between various stakeholders, including - the City of Penticton, the Province, BC Housing, facility operators and nearby businesses, residents and services as well as input from the RCMP, Fire Department and other critical supports.
As the City of Penticton experienced through 2021, unilateral decisions by BC Housing to operate shelters in unsuitable locations lead to controversial outcomes that polarized discussions among policy-makers and triggered unproductive relationships between neighbours. To avoid these outcomes, the City encourages BC Housing and the Province to listen to residents and work with Council before finalizing decisions and services planned for Penticton.
Traditionally, every winter, shelter capacity in Penticton increases and then ceases at the end of March. For the period of November 2019 to March 2020, the increased capacity occurred at BC Housing’s Compass House facility, however, due to COVID-19 health guidelines, the planned 2020 increase, also set for Compass House, could not proceed. In response to this situation, City Council approved BC Housing a one-time temporary use permit for a winter shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street, effective November 2020 to March 2021. The sought site – also known as Victory Church – was the only option provided by BC Housing and the Province.
On March 2, 2021, BC Housing, against its commitment to both City Council and the residents of Penticton, applied to continue operating the temporary winter shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street as a year-round shelter until at least March, 2022. Based on diverse feedback from residents and business surrounding the shelter, Council denied the application on the grounds that 1) the community had been told the shelter’s location was temporary and 2) evidence the shelter was being poorly operated. The Province responded by invoking paramountcy to override Council’s decision.
For additional background, watch this Global BC news clip to listen to an extended interview with Mayor John Vassilaki
August 3, 2017: Council supports Compass Court
July 20, 2018: 62-unit project housing planned for homeless in Penticton
May 9, 2019: 'Compass Court' opens
November 20, 2019: Penticton's new housing project sees fatality, more issues
June 11, 2020: City starts new social development manager
July 7, 2020: Compass House wearing out welcome
July 7, 2020: Fed up with nearby shelter
October 20, 2020: Penticton’s Victory Church to become temporary emergency winter shelter
December 16, 2020: Over 50 new supportive homes coming to Penticton: BC Housing
January 20, 2021: Few new details about supportive housing project
March 12, 2021: Victory Church shelter budget set at $1.7M
March 23, 2021: Legal challenge over shelter?
April 13, 2021: City seeking UBCM support
April 19, 2021: Survey says: Majority backs council on shelter dispute
April 20, 2021: Penticton council votes to close controversial homeless shelter
May 11, 2021: Secretive society doubles down on Victory shelter
May 20, 2021: UBCM warns Minister Eby of “Dangerous Precedent”
May 31, 2021: Homeless shelter hard on nearby businesses
December 15, 2021: Victory Church shelter closing
April 6, 2022: Controversial Penticton homeless shelter closing this week
April 6, 2022
The emergency shelter at Victory Church in downtown Penticton is set to close this week as preparations conclude to move its residents into a permanent location at Compass Court featuring 40 new shelter units.
“Based on conversations with BC Housing, Victory Church will be vacated and cleaned up by the end of the week,” said the City’s Director of Development Services, Blake Laven. “With regard to Compass Court, there remains elements of landscaping and various site works still to be completed, but the units themselves can now be occupied.”
Outstanding work at Compass Court will be undertaken over the next few weeks and will improve the exterior appearance of the property. In preparation for an increase in activity around Compass Court, along with a higher concentration of shelter services at this location, Bylaw Services and RCMP will adjust their patrols accordingly.
“Today’s news of the opening of new shelter services at Compass Centre and the closing of the Victory shelter is the result of a great deal of work from many partners at all levels,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki. “I would like to thank everyone who played a role in ensuring that some of our city’s most vulnerable population is safely housed.”
“We’re pleased to be moving into our new location and are very appreciative of the investment support we’ve received from BC Housing,” said Penticton District Society for Community Living CEO, Tony Laing. “Our operations are ready to re commence at Compass Court. We’ll be working hard to effectively meet our outreach goals while ensuring our presence in the community is successfully incorporated.”
December 15, 2021
The City of Penticton has received an application from the Province to relocate the shelter at 352 Winnipeg St. (Victory church) to a different, permanent location. The proposed location of the new facility, at 1706 Main Street, is consistent with the City’s shelter guidelines. Staff have begun reviewing the application so that construction can begin as soon as possible.
On July 7, 2021, the City of Penticton filed a petition with the BC Supreme Court challenging the Province’s decision to invoke “paramountcy” over the City’s zoning bylaw in a unilateral move to operate the shelter. The City had approved spending up to $300,000 on this legal challenge, for which approximately $70,000 was spent. With the Province’s announcement today, the City is pleased to report that it has directed legal counsel to engage in discussions with the City’s Provincial counterparts to withdraw the pursuit of the petition.
“Today’s announcement by the Province to close the Victory Church shelter recognizes the voices of Penticton residents who, in great numbers, expressed their concerns surrounding the shelter,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki. ”Equally importantly, this is great news for Penticton’s most vulnerable who can now seek shelter and care in a facility that is built in an appropriate location. In the lead up to July’s decision, Council heard clear public feedback from polls, petitions and letters, that 352 Winnipeg Street is no place for a shelter, and we agree. We are pleased to see Minister David Eby and the Province closing this shelter and adhering to the City’s bylaws."
July 7, 2021
On July 7, 2021, a petition was filed with the BC Supreme Court challenging the Province’s decision to invoke “paramountcy” over the City’s zoning bylaw in a unilateral move to operate an intended temporary winter shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street as a year-round facility.
"This matter involves a community land use problem and Council remains united on the position it’s taken with the Province since first learning of Mr. Eby’s decision to ignore the will of our community as it relates to 352 Winnipeg Street,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki. “Council has listened and by way of polls, petitions and letters, thousands of residents have told us that 352 Winnipeg Street is no place for a shelter, and we agree. That is why Council denied renewing the permit and why we continue to oppose the facility, at this location. We hope BC Housing will do the right thing and close the shelter, adhere to the City’s bylaws and avoid the necessity of going to court.”
The City has approved spending up to $300,000 on this legal challenge, an amount that was favoured by the Community following an April community poll on the subject.
As this matter is now before the court, no further comments will be supplied.
May 12, 2021
On behalf of a united Penticton City Council and the citizens they serve, Mayor John Vassilaki has sent the following letter to Premier John Horgan requesting immediate intervention concerning his government's threat to invoke Provincial Paramountcy to maintain an unlawful temporary winter shelter in Penticton.
Dear Premier Horgan,
I am writing on behalf of the citizens of Penticton urging you to resolve the impasse between City residents and the Attorney General and Minister of Housing, David Eby. Penticton voters have expressed overwhelming support in two surveys for you to step in and work with City Council to correct the Minister’s handling of a temporary winter shelter located in the downtown core.
Penticton residents care about housing for those in need. The proof is evident from our past experience working with Provincial Ministers and BC Housing. Our city of 33,000 helps provide 1,906 provincially-funded units of non-market housing. This housing is the result of positive partnerships that reflect the very spirit of your own commitment to work with local municipalities.
However, under Minister Eby’s leadership, your government has changed course on cooperating with local communities. The Minister has misinformed British Columbians by inferring that Penticton is not doing its part in supportive housing. This is despite his own Ministry’s data indicating that Penticton has the highest number of supportive beds per capita in the B.C. interior.
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. A crime density map shows that the shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street has become the epicentre for property crime in Penticton. This is a costly drain on police, fire and bylaw resources as well as being harmful to surrounding residents and businesses.
Your government has not been silent, however, on provoking and polarizing legitimate concerns. Minister Eby threatened to bring 1,000 tents and sleeping bags into the City when the shelter’s permit for lawful use in winter expired. It is odd that the Province’s top lawyer is silent on protecting vulnerable senior citizens from crime but vocal on encouraging Provincial action which directly inflicts such crime on those same senior citizens.
While there’s never a problem-free shelter location, integrating a shelter into surrounding neighbourhoods can be successful when Provincial leadership listens to the public and local concerns. Solving problems for one group should never bring harm or risk of safety to another. The goal should be to work together to find a better shelter location.
Penticton’s united City Council, along with thousands of residents who share our concerns, do not believe that your government is listening. We hope you will. We request your intervention to ensure the Province returns to working in partnership with Penticton and other municipalities to solve the housing issues. What may work in Victoria for temporary housing does not necessarily work for the rest of B.C.
As a start, please reconsider Minister Eby’s threat to invoke Provincial paramountcy to maintain an unlawful use of the shelter and instead direct BC Housing to apply solutions already suggested by City staff to find a better location, as Penticton Council requested in October 2020.
Mayor of Penticton
April 21, 2021
In response to the current operation of the temporary winter shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street, during its April 20 meeting, Penticton City Council gave direction to staff proceed with the following next steps:
- to continue to negotiate solutions with the Province, BC Housing, the landlord, and operator to immediately close the 352 Winnipeg Street temporary winter shelter and respectfully transition all 42 current shelter stayers into other housing situations.
- to continue to work with the landlord to reduce nuisances and calls-for-service (Bylaw, fire, and RCMP) under the Good Neighbour Bylaw, and for the City to take the appropriate measures to designate 352 Winnipeg Street as a Nuisance Property under the Good Neighbour Bylaw if nuisances and calls-for-service do not immediately stop.
- to draft a letter on behalf of the City formally requesting that the BC Premier immediately intervene in the issues around the 352 Winnipeg Street temporary winter shelter, including the Province’s intentional acts to contravene Council’s two unanimous and lawful decisions not to extend a Temporary Use Permit at 352 Winnipeg Street and the City of Penticton’s Zoning Bylaw.
- to begin pursuing all injunctive actions available to the City through the courts, with the understanding that this procedure may cost up to $300,000.
April 19, 2021
The results of two community surveys, completed March 31 through April 10 for the purpose of formalizing public feedback around Council’s March 2 decision not to renew a temporary use permit for the operation of a winter shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street, will be presented to Council during their upcoming April 20 meeting.
In summary, a general public survey generated 3472 responses and a random sample survey of the City’s 5700 Shape Your City active member database generated 421 responses. Key findings from the surveys include:
• When asked their view of Council’s decision to not extend the permit for the temporary shelter, 64 per cent of the public survey agreed or strongly agreed with this decision compared to 61 per cent of the random sample survey.
• When asked their view of the Provincial Government’s decision to invoke its powers to overrule the decision of Council, 66 per cent of the public survey disagreed or strongly disagreed with this decision compared to 67 per cent of the random sample survey.
• When asked their view of exercising the legal right to challenge the Province in the courts at a potential cost of between $200,000 and $300,000, 51 per cent of the public survey agreed or strongly agreed compared to 39 per cent of the random sample survey.
• When asked whether they support Council requesting that BC Premier, John Horgan, intervene with the goal of the Province and the City working together on a solution, 78 per cent of the public survey agreed or strongly agreed compared to 85 per cent of the random sample survey.
“Council will discuss the survey results in detail during tomorrow’s meeting,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki. “Today I want to thank the thousands of Penticton residents from across the spectrum of our community who answered Council’s call for feedback. The Province’s failure to prioritize feedback has triggered the situation we’re now facing, a situation that pits neighbour against neighbour and government against government. Regardless of your position on this issue, thank you for participating.”
The complete results of both surveys are available on www.shapeyourcitypenticton.ca
During Tuesday’s meeting, staff will also present several recommendations for Council to consider as possible next steps. The recommendations include:
- Directing staff to continue to negotiate solutions with the Province, BC Housing, the landlord, and operator to immediately close the 352 Winnipeg Street temporary winter shelter and respectfully transition all 42 current shelter stayers into other housing situations.
- Directing staff to continue to work with the landlord to reduce nuisances and calls-for-service (Bylaw, fire, and RCMP) under the Good Neighbour Bylaw, and for the City to take the appropriate measures to designate 352 Winnipeg Street as a Nuisance Property under the Good Neighbour Bylaw if nuisances and calls-for-service do not immediately stop.
- Directing staff to draft a letter on behalf of the City formally requesting that the BC Premier immediately intervene in the issues around the 352 Winnipeg Street temporary winter shelter, including the Province’s intentional acts to contravene Council’s two unanimous and lawful decisions not to extend a Temporary Use Permit at 352 Winnipeg Street and the City of Penticton’s Zoning Bylaw.
- Directing staff to begin pursuing all injunctive actions available to the City through the courts, with the understanding that this procedure may cost up to $300,000.
Due to the time needed to compile and review the survey results, both the survey findings and the associated staff report recommendations will appear as a late item on the April 20 Council meeting agenda.
April 13, 2021
On behalf of City Council, Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki, has sent a letter to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) President, Brian Frenkel, requesting UBCM prepare a letter to BC Premier, John Horgan, supporting Council’s position that the Province’s recent use of Paramountcy is a violation of two Council decisions and the City’s zoning Bylaws.
“My letter to Mr. Frenkel made it very clear that the issue at hand is a matter of land use and cooperative planning between two levels of government,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki. “The Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, David Eby, would have British Columbians believe that the City of Penticton is not doing its part to support the housing crisis. This is simply not the case and information provided directly from the Minister shows that Penticton has the highest number of supportive housing beds per capita in the interior region. All of these beds were developed with Penticton Council’s input and with respect for Council’s role in the decision making process.
“Today our previous working relationship of bilateral cooperation has been replaced by a unilateral hammer that puts our residents at risk of having the Provincial Government plan our community. As such, Council has reached out to Mr. Frenkel and the UBCM membership at large to seek their support in reversing the Province’s conduct towards Penticton, or any other community they disagree with.”
Between March 31 and April 10, 2021, the City of Penticton will survey its residents for the purpose of formalizing public opinion around Council’s March 2, 2021 decision not to renew a temporary use permit for the operation of a winter shelter at Victory Church (352 Winnipeg Street). Council declined the permit on several grounds, including that the shelter was originally intended as a temporary, winter solution only and, in the following months after the shelter opened in November 2020, had become a nuisance property negatively impacting nearby residents and businesses, lacked wrap-around support services and was demanding a high volume of Bylaw, Fire Dept and RCMP response resources.
Following the March 2 decision, combined with a subsequent decision made March 16 where the March 2 decision was upheld following a request from BC Housing to reconsider, Penticton City Council, by way of comments in a majority of received emails and petitions, has heard mostly support for their position on the shelter.
Given this support, combined with the Province’s stated intention to overrule the decision of an elected City Council, the City of Penticton is prepared to exercise its right to challenge the Province in court. This course of action is, however, not without significant challenges and, based on legal advice, would require the City spend from $200,000 to $300,000.
With the goal of obtaining broad-based Penticton resident feedback indicating whether or not the City should challenge the Province, Council is seeking the community’s opinion by way of a short formal survey, available either online or by phone.
“By their nature, difficult decisions trigger considerable feedback. The matter of the Victory Church shelter is no exception and to date Penticton Council has received mostly consistent support for its March 2 decision,” said Penticton Mayor, John Vassilaki. “However, for Council to act in the best interest of the whole community, and in keeping with past community issues involving strong interest or expense, conducting a formalized feedback process is the right thing to do to ensure we hear all perspectives. Whether you live near the shelter, away from the shelter or in the shelter, please share your feedback.”
Until the survey is completed and the results presented back to Council, the City will take no immediate action on the matter of the shelter. However, the public is advised that the shelter operator, Penticton & District Society for Community Living, has been sent a letter notifying them that, as of April 2, 2021, their Temporary Use Permit expires and they should be working with the City to relocate residents to alternative accommodations. In addition, the City has also sent a letter to the building owner Pentictonia Holdings Ltd, advising them that their property at 352 Winnipeg Street has triggered 12 service calls to the Bylaw Department since the beginning of 2021 and that the City wishes to work with them on solutions to making this property less susceptible to the types of calls being received and help reduce instances of nuisance complaints from the surrounding neighbours.
“Amongst all the attention this issue has generated, it’s critical to note that, by way of the Province's provided data, when it comes to creating solutions for the homeless and working with our partners to address housing, no City has provided more supportive housing per capita than Penticton and the Province is now using paramountcy at the first disagreement. Any claims to the contrary are uninformed and counterproductive to keeping the conversation focused on the issues before us – creating long-term, properly placed solutions, equipped with supportive wrap-around services, and finding ways to prevent individuals from experiencing homelessness in the first place”, said Vassilaki.
Penticton residents are encouraged to complete the survey March 31, through April 10, 2021.
Residents with Internet access can go to:
Individuals without Internet access can dial:
PLEASE NOTE: callers will be asked to leave their contact information and an operator will call them back to complete the survey during daytime hours. This service will be available daily through to the close of the survey on April 10, 2021.
March 18, 2021
Concerning the extension of a temporary use permit allowing the old Victory Church property to be used as a year-round shelter beyond March 31, 2021, Mayor John Vassilaki has sent a letter to BC Housing restating Council’s decision not to renew the current permit. While the City of Penticton has been made aware of Minister Eby’s reaction to Council’s March 16 decision, it is currently waiting for written correspondence from BC Housing formalizing their intention to continue operating their shelter. Once that correspondence is received, any future course of action concerning the Victory Church shelter will be publically discussed during a Council meeting in April.
Jan. 13, 2021: Letter from Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki to Housing Minister David Eby titled RE: 3240 Skaha Lake Road Supportive Housing Project’s Public Engagement Process, seeking information about the supportive housing project proposed for 3240 Skaha Lake Road.
Feb. 8, 2021: BC Housing Overview: Engagement for Skaha Road Supportive Housing, providing information regarding 3240 Skaha Road.
March 2, 2021: Letter from Housing Minister David Eby to Mayor John Vassilaki and Council, titled Penticton Supportive Housing Outcomes: Proposed Scope of Work.
March 8, 2021: BC Housing to Penticton Mayor and Council, titled Re: 352 Winnipeg Street, Penticton, asking Penticton to reconsider its rejection of BC Housing's application.
March 11, 2021: Mayor's letter, titled: 352 Winnipeg Street, Penticton, in response to the previous letter and providing some clarification on a number of items.
March 11, 2021: Mayor's letter to Housing Minister David Eby, titled: Re: Letter dated March 2, 2021, about the supportive housing project at 3240 Skaha Lake Road.
March 18, 2021: Mayor's letter to BC Housing, titled: 352 Winnipeg Street, Penticton, detailing City Council's passed resolution to "deny the request to reconsider the rejection of BC Housing's temporary use application for an emergency shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street until March 31, 2022."
March 19, 2021: BC Housing letter to Mayor and Council, titled: 352 Winnipeg Street, Penticton, confirming "BC Housing's intention to continue to operate the 42-bed emergency shelter at the Property...".
March 30, 2021: City’s letter to Penticton and District Society for Community Living CEO, Tony Laing, concerning the expiration of Temporary Use Permit PL2020-8834 for 352 Winnipeg Street.
April 12, 2021: Correspondence from Penticton and District Society for Community Living CEO, Tony Laing, acknowledging the City’s March 30 letter.
April 13, 2021: Mayor’s letter titled BC Government’s Use of Provincial Paramountcy to Undermine Local Government Bylaws requesting UBCM President, Brian Frenkel, send a letter to BC Premier, John Horgan
April 14, 2021: Correspondence from Housing Minister David Eby acknowledging Mayor’s letters from January 13, 2021 and March 11, 2021.
April 15, 2021: Mayor’s letter titled BC Government’s Use of Provincial Paramountcy to Undermine Local Government Bylaws requesting SIGLA President, Lori Mindnich, send a letter to BC Premier, John Horgan.
April 20, 2021: Correspondence from Pentictonia Holdings Ltd’s, Bobby Nia, acknowledging the City’s March 30 letters.
May 3, 2021: Letter from the City titled Ongoing Bylaw Contraventions at 352 Winnipeg Street to Tony Laing, CEO of the Penticton and District Socity for Community Living.
May 10, 2021: Correspondence from Penticton and District Society for Community Living CEO, Tony Laing, acknowledging the City’s May 3, 2021 letter.
May 12, 2021: Mayor’s Open Letter to Premier Horgan requesting his intervention to resolve the shelter issue at 352 Winnipeg Street.
May 17, 2021: Letter from Ryan Dalziel, Q.C., of Hunter Litigation Chambers, to Chief Executive Officer of BC Housing, Shayne Ramsay, in response to licensing agreement at 352 Winnipeg Street.
May 19, 2021: Letter from Union of BC Municipalities President, Brian Frenkel, to Attorney General and Minister of Responsible Housing, David Eby in response to Penticton City Council’s April 13, 2021 request.
May 20, 2021: Correspondence from Singleton Reynolds Counsel, Ronald Joesphson, in response to Hunter Litigation Chambers' letter from May 17, 2021.
May 26, 2021: Letter from BC Housing Provincial Director of Redevelopment Strategies, Sheryl Peters, notifying Mayor and Council about the purchase of 2730, 2784 and 2824 Skaha Lake Road.
May 27, 2021: Mayor’s letter in response to notification about the purchase of 2730, 2784 and 2824 Skaha Lake Road.
June 16, 2021: Letter from Associate Vice President of Operations (BC Housing), Kelly Miller to Penticton Director of Development Services, Blake Laven, providing an update on the three supportive housing sites.
June 17, 2021: Letter from Housing Minister David Eby to Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki, in response to May 11, 2021 letter to Premier John Horgan regarding shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street.
Jan. 4, 2022: Notice of Discontinuance endorsed December 22, 2021 and letter from Hunter Litigation Chambers acknowledging the City's discontinued Petition as a result of the March 31, 2022 expiry of the license agreement for 352 Winnipeg Street.
Phone: 250-490-2512, Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m.