Tiny Home village planned for Port Alberni to replace notorious RV park

Port Alberni, BC

The Port Alberni Friendship Center is pleased to announce the development of a tiny home village to be built on a Fourth Avenue property adjacent to the Winter Green Apartments property – a site that has several old recreational vehicles rented to low-income individuals in need of low-barrier housing.

The Fourth Avenue lot is owned by Randy Brown, who brought in about a dozen old trailers to house marginalized people. There is porta potty outhouse for the residents to use and a network of unprotected extension cords stretched from campers to the lone apartment building on the property. The trailers have no heat sources.

Last November the City of Port Alberni deemed the trailer park unsafe, ordering the owner to make repairs and upgrades to the apartment building and to remove the old trailers.

At a Nov. 23 meeting city council voted unanimously to put a remedial action order on the apartments – which are sometimes referred to as “the Ghetto” - and the surrounding property. Owners, Randy Brown from Port Alberni and Martin Chambers from Victoria, had 30 days to undertake an extensive list of repairs and upgrades to bring the property up to acceptable safety standards.

Brown claims he’s offering housing to people who otherwise would have nowhere else to go. In November 2021, Ha-Shilth-Sa reported that he charged $500 rent per trailer and $400 per person living in the seven-suite apartment building, which includes utilities. There were approximately 18 people living in the apartments, said Brown.

The property owner said that he would make the improvements but has failed to do so. The city has issued fines to the tune of $120,000 and plans to take Brown to court.

But the city will have another housing option in place before seeking to enforce the order to remove the illegal trailers. They purchased vacant land adjacent to the property and partnered with BC Housing and the Port Alberni Friendship Center to create a tiny home village to be called Wałyaqił.

On June 2 the Port Alberni Friendship Center issued a press release that stated that they, in collaboration with BC Housing, the City of Port Alberni and the Housing Task Force that includes Tseshaht, Hupacasath, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and other community agencies, is pleased to announce the development of a Wałyaqił - Tiny Home Village.

“The creation of this temporary housing development has been a combination of efforts in response to providing safe, alternative housing to several individuals unable to access safe, affordable housing who are currently residing in unsafe conditions and or living rough,” stated the press release.

The tiny home village will offer small but dignified and safe housing to marginalized people. The development is destined to be beneficial to First Nations people in Port Alberni, which has seen a growing proportion of its homeless population identify as Indigenous. A point-in-time count conducted in 2021 indicated that 65 per cent of the city’s homeless population identify as Aboriginal.

“On behalf of Tseshaht council and community, we thank BC Housing for the funding that will be used to assist in relocating residents from unsafe conditions in travel trailers to housing where they can live under improved conditions and be provided with the tools and supports to help improve their quality of life” said Ken Watts, elected chief councilor,

“We feel extremely fortunate for this funding from BC Housing, and we are appreciative of all Task Force member agencies, in particular the leadership of the Port Alberni Friendship Centre” said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions.

 “This initiative is a great example of what’s possible when different partners work together for the best interest of our most marginalized population” said Mariah Charleson, Vice-President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

PAFC has secured capitol for 13 tiny homes, but they hope to raise money for at least 30 units. They are reaching out to the city, First Nations, and anyone else they can think of that would commit to funding additional units.

According to Cyndi Stevens, Executive Director of the Port Alberni Friendship Center, the Wałyaqił - Tiny Home Village, will provide secure, dry sleeping pods with hydro, restrooms, showers, access to food resources and Wi-Fi. In addition, it will be staffed 24/7 by trained and qualified personnel. Each tiny home, also called sleeping pod, will contain a bed, mini fridge, desk & chair and storage for clothing.

Three meals a day will be provided by Bread of Life and Salvation Army

Residents will have access to counseling and other services and activities. It is anticipated that the new site will offer a sense of belonging and community for those without access to basic necessities and supports while working with community to transition them into longer-term sustainable low-barrier housing.

It is hoped that the village will be ready for its first residents in late summer or early fall 2022.

Stevens says there will be a small blessing ceremony at the property on June 23 beginning at noon.

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