Penticton 2021 byelection candidates

Clockwise from top left: James Blake, Amelia Boultbee, Steve Brown, Karen Brownlee, Jason Cox, Katie O'Kell, James Miller, Keith MacIntyre, Kate Hansen, Isaac Gilbert.

Acting editor's note: This is the fifth piece in a 10-part question-and-answer series with the 10 candidates. The entire process, including crafting the questions, was handled by freelancer Roy Wood. Responses were run through a spellchecker, but otherwise unedited. Candidates were asked to keep their responses to 100 words or less. Responses that ran longer have been clipped as indicated by an ellipsis. We're presenting the responses in random order each day.

Question 5: City council recently voted to designate Compass Court at 1706 Main St. as the preferred site for a Penticton homeless shelter.  Do you agree or disagree with the decision? Why?

James Blake

Though shelters alone are certainly not the ultimate answer, we must get people off the streets. If people remain on the streets they will inevitably, abruptly, find their way into dangerous situations with some of that being crime and drugs. At that point the problems and challenges we face supporting and rehabilitating become infinitely worse, long term, and much more expensive.

Amelia Boultbee

I agree with this decision. The location is zoned for social housing and is a central location for services, so it’s a sensible location. The city cannot abandon those who rely on shelters, but also cannot allow locations like Victory Church to persist when vulnerable seniors located nearby are not feeling safe in their own neighborhoods. Striking the balance will continue to be challenging, but if we consult with service providers and the community, I’m confident we can find a solution that works for everyone.

Karen Brownlee

Well, I would have to know more on their decision.  There are (were) many levels of individuals using these facilities.  From the mild person to the timid and to the violent ones.  I personally spoke with some of the homeless, this is what they shared of why they are reluctant to use them.  It’s Fear.  Likewise, for the staff, the house rules that were set out to protect those who sought shelter have gone the wayside only to become a party house.  But I would need to delve deeper to know more fully.

Katie O’Kell

Compass Court provides an incredible service to the precariously housed. Shelter, meals, and employment skills are all things that homeless people need to get back on their feet. Downtown businesses have seen a significant increase in petty crimes since Compass Court opened, and a decrease in business. People are uncomfortable going downtown with the increase in drug use affiliated with these kinds of support systems. Penticton needs more dry housing solutions. I would request a change in policy with BC Housing, who fund this location, as well as increased funding for mental health services.

James Miller

Council appeared to have no choice but to allow the continued operation of Compass Court, as the shelter was implemented by the current Provincial Government, which threatened to use paramountcy legislation to facilitate new transitional housing and an existing shelter extension.   Compass Court’s operator, the Penticton and District Society for Community Living, pledged to be a good neighbour when the facility opened in 2019, and that has obviously not happened.  Because of serious, negative impacts to both businesses and residents nearby, it is essential that Compass Court operations be immediately investigated and remedied by David Eby and BC Housing.

Keith MacIntyre

Yes, I agree with it.  I think PDSCL provides valuable services.  I think the government needs to get out of the way of providing these services, and I think our tax dollars municipally, provincially and federally should be directed directly into the community and allocated as we see fit, not how bureaucrats see fit.

Kate Hansen

Yes, I do.  Compass Court provides supportive housing for individuals who are homeless, or at risk of being homeless.  “Supportive” Housing is a key component in the care and treatment of those with Mental Health and Addiction issues.  It provides meals, life and employment skills training, and care for those in recovery.  However, City Council needs to hold our stakeholder agencies accountable, to ensure they maintain acceptable community standards, and are compliant with the Good Neighbour Bylaw and the Criminal Code of Canada, and not seen as a nuisance property where illegal behaviour is permitted.

Isaac Gilbert

I agree with council’s decision to continue the operations at Compass Court. I recently met with the CEO of PDSCL and the organization has learned and listened to the community to overcome the challenges that were presented at that location.

Jason Cox

I believe in the housing first philosophy. Housing first does not mean housing only. As a city councillor, I would work and advocate for the province to provide tangible, on the ground support for addictions and mental health. Warehousing people without supports leads to more friction and less safety in all populations. This community needs a made-in-Penticton plan that approaches social infrastructure in the community strategically. If elected, I would like to work with all stakeholders to develop a plan that we can take to the province and work collaboratively and proactively rather than being reactive.

Steve Brown

I support this decision as our Police Superintendent supports it with the understanding that Interior Health is providing an addictions nurse to assist the police in dealing with the residents at Compass Court and other low barrier housing developments. This is an important first step as the police should not be the lead responders to mental health and addiction related issues. The Ministry of Health and Mental Health along with other Provincial Ministries’ must commit to establishing Regional Treatment Centres. I fully support the local RCMP in their efforts to gain control to ensure safety both in and around these facilities.