Property owner Randy Brown says he has no plans to remove trailers from his Fourth Avenue property, despite being ordered to by the city.
Port Alberni city council have upheld a Remedial Action Order for the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue and have given Brown an extra 14 days to complete an extensive list of improvements.
A Remedial Action Order was passed by council on Nov. 23, 2020 requiring Brown to undergo a number of safety and building upgrades to the apartment building, known to house vulnerable and homeless individuals, within 30 days, and to remove all trailers on the adjoining lot that are currently being occupied without proper permitting.
The extensive list of repairs Brown was ordered to complete by the city includes repairing railings on staircases, fixing exterior walls, replacing broken windows, replacing or repairing ceilings where mold has occurred, removing all garbage and refuse from interior and exterior common spaces of the property, permanently removing objects stored on balconies and to remove all trailers and recreational vehicles from the property.
Brown must also cease all renovations until he obtains proper permits and building inspection.
According to the City of Port Alberni, Brown has not made any improvements to the properties since the Remedial Action order was implemented.
Brown, who joined the virtual council meeting on Jan. 11, said he has no plans to remove the trailers from the property.
“I don’t plan on removing the trailers. I have basically taken 18 people off the streets of Port Alberni and I’m housing them in these trailers,” Brown said. “I don’t really need any more time, I’m not removing them. I think anybody who has half a brain will agree with what I’m doing down there…this is an emergency situation.”
City CAO Tim Pley said if people are displaced from their living situation because of city action, all individuals will be offered alternative housing.
“We can introduce them to housing, we can’t make them take that housing up,” Pley said during the council meeting.
Another property formerly handed a Remedial Action Order was the Harbourview Apartments on Third Avenue but unlike Brown, the property owner has completed the work required by the city.
In a report to council, it was stated the property owner and manager have made substantial improvements in bringing the property to compliance, including creating a current fire safety plan.
Brown said he has completed some of the Remedial Action requirements at the Wintergreen Apartments since Nov. 23.
Should Brown not complete the remaining requirements ordered by the city, council can choose to hold an in-camera meeting to determine the next steps for the properties.
Another property of Brown’s on Third Avenue, a former tattoo shop and before that the CJAV building, was recently given a Do Not Occupy order by the city for its unsafe living conditions. Brown was planning to allow a dozen homeless individuals to use the building as a shelter, he even purchased several futon beds and began renovations. Without proper permitting, the renovations were ordered to stop.
Brown continues to voice a need for more low-barrier housing for the homeless community in Port Alberni.
The Port Alberni Shelter Society (PASS), that operates Our Home on Eighth, has rooms available for those in need, but some people choose not to stay there saying rules can be too strict and unattainable.
A protest began late last year by individuals citing a number of allegations against the society’s management and operations, including not allowing people to return to the shelter if their name was on a banned list.
BC Housing has conducted a third-party review into the allegations against PASS and are awaiting the consultant’s final report.
“We anticipate the submission of the consultant’s final report to BC Housing for review in the coming weeks,” BC Housing said in an emailed statement. “We appreciate the consultant’s care and attention to developing a final report that will be the culmination of multiple interviews with sources and partners.”
Port Alberni service provider Lisa George has been advocating for the homeless community since the beginning of the protest. George and members of the new Grassroots Homelessness Coalition organized a pop-up warming centre in December for a three-night trial run. Tents were set up on a lot beside the Friendship Centre on Fourth Avenue that offered a propane fire pit for heat, food and some warm clothing. The warming station was approved by the city for a trial run.
George said the three-day trial run went well but plans to continue operating a pop-up warming site are on hold for now.
“The Bread of Life (warming centre) is open so many more hours now because they have a partnership with Kuu-Us,” George said. “So why are we exhausting ourselves to do what they are offering now?”
The Bread of Life warming centre’s hours of operation are now Sunday to Wednesday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
George said the Grassroots Homelessness Coalition may look to get involved in partnership with the Bread of Life as well.
Pley said the feedback received by the city about the pop-up warming centre so far is that the trial run went well.
“The City had agreed that three events would provide a good trial of the model,” Pley said. “The city intends to work with the organizers toward their continuation of service provision in a way that is safe and does not create risk for the city or nuisance for neighbours.”