A review of the Port Alberni Shelter Society is progressing, says a spokesperson with BC Housing.
The provincial housing department agreed to a review of the shelter following weeks of unproven allegations and accusations against the shelter by Graham Hughes, who ran unsuccessfully for MLA of Mid Island-Pacific Rim in the recent provincial election. Hughes and his supporters set up a tent city on Island Health-owned property in front of and beside Our Home on Eighth shelter on Eighth Avenue.
The tent city was evicted on Friday, Nov. 13; most of the tents were removed and campers offered emergency housing at local hotels. However, Hughes and others were back at the edge of the property on Saturday, Nov. 14.
A third-party contractor has been hired to conduct an independent review of concerns raised in relation to the shelter society. “Due to the concerns brought forward, it is important that the review be conducted at arm’s length from BC Housing,” the spokesperson said. “BC Housing is committed to following up on all concerns regarding the projects and societies that we support.”
BC Housing contracts the Port Alberni Shelter Society to run the shelter. The review is expected to take several weeks.
Hughes said Friday that the most vulnerable people living in tents or on the street don’t have weeks. He wants the city to declare a state of emergency to force action now.
“We didn’t want a tent city, and we still don’t. But these people have nowhere to go,” Hughes said.
“In order to respect the process, we will not be commenting on the review until it is complete,” the spokesperson said.
Because the provincial housing department is still under an election writ—the new government has not yet been sworn in—no BC Housing representative was available for a formal interview.
Although Port Alberni’s Mayor Sharie Minions supported a review of the shelter by BC Housing, city CAO Tim Pley said the city is unable to comment on the process.
When the announcement was made Oct. 30 that a review would take place, Minions applauded BC Housing’s decision and said the city will support the review process “to (ensure) that all voices in our community have the opportunity to be heard, especially those of our vulnerable populations.”