Saturday, January 19, 2008
Our day in Penticton was a lesson in how critical the crisis of homelessness is in smaller centres in the province. The situation in the Okanagan is complicated by the fact that there is a huge influx of tourists in the summer months. It used to be that homeless people could survive the summer outside and spend the winter in low cost motel accommodation. This is more difficult now since even these rents have increased substantially. While many condominiums are being built (and many of these sit empty most of the year after they are completed) almost no low cost housing is available.
Our meeting with the Penticton City Council's social development committee was extremely useful. I want to thank the city councillors, school trustees, business people, health and social service workers, representatives from not for profit organizations, and Summerland and Penticton residents for taking the time to meet,
and especially for their clear commitment to finding solutions.
The message I get from across the province is consistent. Incomes -- both social assistance and minimum wage -- are too low for people to afford existing housing units. And even if people had more money to spend on housing, affordable units just aren't available.