Housing project

BC Housing has bought these two houses at 594 and 600 Winnipeg St. to build a 62-unit housing project for the homeless. The building will be ready next spring.

BC Housing has identified a new location to house the homeless in Penticton. The province is buying two small homes at 594 and 600 Winnipeg St.

This location is ideal for supportive housing due to its close proximity to social services in the downtown core as well as public transit routes, BC Housing said in a press release Friday.

The 62-unit housing complex is part of the Building BC: Rapid Response to Homelessness program. The project will be built by Penticton’s Metric Modular.

The building will be operated by ASK Wellness, a non-profit housing operator that has significant experience working with the homeless, said BC Housing. The building will be staffed around the clock to provide support services, including access to mental health and addiction recovery programs, life skills training and employment skills programming.

“We welcome this announcement to help the city’s most vulnerable,” Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said. “There is no ideal location, but this is near services, and ASK Wellness will help mitigate any fears about how it will be run.”

After public outcry last month, Penticton city council rejected BC Housing’s proposal to build a 52-unit project on Green Avenue.

While city council had a say on that project, this housing conforms with the current zoning. Council will be allowed input on form and design, but not whether or not this project will go ahead, said Jakubeit.

Applicants will go through a thorough assessment process to ensure the building has an appropriate mix of tenants, matched up with the right supports.

Construction is expected to begin this fall, with completion by spring 2019.

“We can’t build housing fast enough. We need these units tomorrow, but we are still thankful they are coming through,” said Jakubeit.

On Monday, BC Housing estimated 108 people are homeless in Penticton.

This new location is several blocks away from the notorious 377 Winnipeg St. flop house, a residence known to police for alleged drug use and criminal activity.

“Housing is the key to turn these lives around,” Jakubeit said.

However, the city recognizes there will be a gap between now and when this housing is ready to open.

“Unfortunately, Compass Court (Super 8) is a bit behind, so it too won’t be here until early spring,” the mayor said. “BC Housing has been in talks with us to see if we can find a temporary location to fill that gap.”

BC Housing is inviting neighbouring residents and businesses to learn more about the project at an information session from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at Cheers the Church, 639 Main St.

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