Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is breathing life back into trailers used in Ahousaht to create a new wellness center at their Ty-Histanis reservation.
Five trailers that served as bunkhouses for crew members working on Ahousaht’s wastewater treatment plant are being moved out of the Flores Island community. Tla-o-qui-aht purchased the trailers from the contractor that built Ahousaht’s wastewater treatment plant.
According to Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Administrator Jim Chisholm, the mobile bunkhouse facility will be set up at Ty-Histanis to support members who are living rough and hitting roadblocks in their efforts to live a healthier life.
“There’s been a blooming of street people in our province,” said Chisholm.
They are finding it increasingly difficult to get into treatment facilities, as more people access the services, with fewer safe places to go when they’re done treatment.
“If we want to send them for drug and alcohol counselling, we’re finding the facilities are saying if we can’t guarantee them a place to stay when they’re done, then it’s not worth treating them, and we see that as a growing trend,” he said.
Like most First Nations, Chisholm says Tla-o-qui-aht is facing an acute housing shortage.
“We had a situation where we had some of our people sleeping in the park in Tofino in the wintertime,” he said. “They wanted help, they reached out for help. That’s what prompted us to buy this camp.”
“We want to encourage many of our members that need help and treatment. Up to now, we haven’t had the facilities to accommodate people coming out of treatment,” added Chisholm.
The five units were originally purchased by Tla-o-qui-aht’s economic development department to be used as staff housing for Best Western Tin Wis Resort. But with a more pressing need identified, the units were transferred over to another department.
“We call it a helping house. It’s not a homeless shelter,” said Chisholm, adding it will be used as a bridge to help those returning from treatment find a more stable lifestyle. “The idea is we bring people in who [are] maybe going to treatment. We can throw resources at them to help them. We’re bringing people into the community that are looking for help.”
The units are not only for people looking to escape addictions, but also those who may be homeless due to employability issues.
“We throw resources at them and, hopefully, they leave in a better place than they came from,” said Chisholm.
The five trailer units include an industrial kitchen and space for 20 people. Chisholm says meals will be up to the individuals staying there. He estimates there will be room for about 18 people once it’s set up.
Chisholm says his staff are working on rules and intake policies, noting that the facility will be alcohol and drug free and supervised.
The new helping centre could open options for a long-term supportive housing facility for Tla-o-qui-aht.
“If we planned a permanent facility down the road, we could always find another use for it. It’s portable, we can move it down the road,” said Chisholm.
So far, three of the trailers have been moved out of Ahousaht. The remaining two will arrive in Ty-Histanis by mid-February.
Chisholm anticipates the buildings will be ready for use by March 2023. New tenants will have to apply to the nation for a room.