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Penticton’s mayor calls for more onsite treatment options at province’s new homeless housing projects

Click to play video 'Penticton’s mayor calls for more onsite treatment options at province’s new homeless housing projects' Penticton’s mayor calls for more onsite treatment options at province’s new homeless housing projects
Penticton’s mayor calls for more onsite treatment options at province’s new homeless housing projects – May 2, 2019

Come this summer, 62 of Penticton’s homeless will call a four-storey modular housing building on Winnipeg Street home.

Factory-built and assembled like Lego pieces, it is part of the B.C. government’s rapid response to homelessness program.

That includes plans to build 2,000 units of supportive housing across the province.

READ MORE: Despite calling homelessness a ‘crisis,’ City of Penticton rejects homeless housing project

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki says the facilities should include more drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation options.

“BC Housing is putting all of this housing in place for homeless people but one thing they omitted to put in place is how to rehabilitate those people that are going into that housing,” he told Global News on Thursday.

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WATCH (April 2019) Recovering addict concerned about relapse due to alleged drug abuse at Penticton shelter

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Recovering addict concerned about relapse due to alleged drug abuse at Penticton shelter – Apr 1, 2019

Vassilaki is also concerned about tenants being allowed to consume drugs and alcohol on site.

“I’m concerned if that is going to happen and I don’t think management in that building will be able to stop it.”

Operator Ask Wellness says the building will include a room where drug users can inject while being overseen by a staff member.

“The supportive housing on Winnipeg Street will include a medical room which will be utilized to provide medical services in partnership with Interior Health for residents as required. This space will also be used as an overdose prevention space for residents as per Interior Health protocols and is part of the provincial response to the opioid overdose emergency declared in December 2016,” says a statement from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

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There will also be 24/7 staff, onsite support workers, and a full-time nurse.

But Vassilaki says that’s not enough and more drug and alcohol treatment services are needed.

“Not only putting them in their units but get rid of the addictions that they have,” he said.

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‘Someone could very well die in these cold temperatures’: Penticton winter shelters at capacity – Feb 6, 2019

WATCH (February 2019) ‘Someone could very well die in these cold temperatures’: Penticton winter shelters at capacity

This week, the City of Penticton is hosting the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) AGM. Delegates from all 37 municipalities across the B.C. Interior are in attendance.

The City of Penticton is asking other communities to endorse several resolutions, including asking the province to ensure all forms of social services — also known as wrap-around services — are available to “individuals housed in homeless housing.”

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While modular housing projects are facing a wall of opposition in communities like Maple Ridge and Kelowna, others say the quick action and fast construction addresses a desperate need.

READ MORE: Housing and homelessness centre stage amid duelling Maple Ridge rallies

“As a quick response to a pretty urgent need, we’re pretty happy,” said Kamloops city councillor Arjun Singh at the conference.

“Really what those people need is affordable housing and 70 units of affordable housing in Salmon Arm, that really meets our need,” added Salmon Arm mayor Alan Harrison.

B.C.’s Housing Minister, Selina Robinson, says that she welcomes the housing resolutions put forward by the City of Penticton.

“We’ve learned from the hundreds of homes already completed that building supportive housing, complete with wrap-around supports, benefits the entire community,” she said in a statement to Global News.

READ MORE: City of Penticton wants piece of funding pie for modular housing

The Winnipeg Street modular housing project will begin accepting tenants in August.

Meanwhile, the Compass Court social housing project at the former Super 8 motel on Main St. has been plagued by delays due to mold and rot issues, “coupled with layers of historic renovations built below acceptable standards,” the ministry said in an email.

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Once complete, the project will include a 20-bed permanent shelter and up to 20 extreme weather response beds to be operational from November through March, plus 42 units of supportive housing.

The first of the three buildings that are part of Compass Court will be opening soon.

The province is also involved in the new 56 affordable homes coming to 285 Nanaimo Ave. W. with a September opening planned.

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