A Port Alberni advocate for the homeless wants to open her property to shelter those who have resorted to living in tents.
Lisa George has been working around the clock with the group of homeless individuals evicted from the Eighth Avenue lot and then the Roger Street Gazebo. She owns the former Redford House care home that will be vacant until April 1, which has the capacity for 24 beds.
George has proposed to Island Health and the city that they give her permission to allow the Redford house to be a temporary solution for the homeless who have not used the Port Alberni Shelter Society’s facilities, offering a low-barrier, semi-supported housing option for the community.
“I have created an operational budget that includes rent, utilities, insurance, food, consumables and staffing based on providing 24 beds. The staffing model provides 24/7 double staff on site with peer supports included in the model,” George wrote in her letter to Mayor Sharie Minions. “Our sleeping spaces are large enough to accommodate six-feet spacing to be mindful of the COVID pandemic.”
George estimates the budget required is approximately $47,000 per month. She’s seeking the city’s support in waiving permitting and licensing fees given this solution is only temporary. Without financial help from community stakeholders, advocates are considering fundraising options, should George be granted permission to provide this service.
Meanwhile, local homeless advocate Graham Hughes says people are still sleeping on the street with nowhere to go. A review mandated by BC Housing into the Port Alberni Shelter Society persists, but this investigation is expected to take several weeks and BC Housing is not commenting until the assessment is complete. As part of the protest that began almost a month ago, advocates are calling for a list of banned ex-shelter residents to be reviewed so people can have somewhere to go.
“Every administrator working the homeless and substance use sector knew the shelter was barring countless folks from refuge and none of them did so much as report it,” Hughes said.
Hughes believes the only way forward is for members of the community to form a new society from scratch that reflects the “actual values of our community and its residents.”
The Port Alberni Shelter Society provides 30 supportive housing units, 23 emergency shelter beds, one family unit and 15 extreme weather beds. The shelter also runs Port Alberni’s Safe Injection Site, with more initiatives in development for the community’s most vulnerable.
They offer a variety of supports and services that empower individuals towards self-sufficiency and a sense of belonging within the community, according to the society’s website. The society’s mission statement includes aiming to be a “model for compassion and acceptance of everyone regardless of their circumstances, create a safe environment of mutual respect for each other and maintain a welcoming environment where residents feel at home”.