Health-care worker Lisa George owns the former Returning the Favour care home on Redford Street and says it would be available for emergency housing while she waits for a contract to kick in for the building’s original use. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Health-care worker Lisa George owns the former Returning the Favour care home on Redford Street and says it would be available for emergency housing while she waits for a contract to kick in for the building’s original use. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Bridging the gap of homelessness in Port Alberni

Idea would get people off streets for winter, give time for a better solution

Port Alberni health-care worker Lisa George is determined to find emergency housing for the city’s homeless, even if she has to provide the space herself.

George has been working every day with the city’s homeless people, first at the tent city that was in front of the Our Home on Eighth shelter for a few weeks, and now wherever she and a team of volunteers happen to find people.

George also operates Phoenix 4 Enterprises, a business that assists people in recovery. A year ago she purchased the former Redford House (previously known as Returning the Favour) care home on Redford Street at Eighth Avenue so she can expand her business, which is running at 90 percent capacity.

She is asking to use the building during the winter as emergency housing to get the city’s hard-to-house people off the streets.

RELATED: Alberni care home’s talks with VIHA stall

The building, which features 12 bedrooms as well as common areas and full bathrooms, is empty because George has had it renovated while she waited for funding approval and licensing.

“It was in pretty rough shape. It sat empty. It’s ready to go for my service.”

Renovations happened in the spring, when contractors and city hall were affected along with other businesses by COVID-19 closures.

“All of those legalities have taken a long time with COVID coming. The restart of everything has taken a long time.”

She is ready for occupancy, but her expansion grants won’t kick in until April 1, 2021. “It could sit vacant until April 1. I thought if it’s sitting vacant, why can we not multi-purpose or think outside the box and get these folks immediately housed for the interim?

“It runs the same span as the cold weather beds—let’s get them out of the weather, and it buys the other agencies and city and government time—to have that three or four months to come up with a better solution.”

There is an immediate need to house people who have been living on the streets, she said, but they are also expecting more vulnerable people to be needing homes as the City of Port Alberni deals with a building under a remediation order. Randy Brown, who owns Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue and a trailer encampment he is slowly building in his adjacent parking lot has been given until late December to fix a long list of items and remove the trailers. He has not said how many people are living in the trailers.

In October when the Port Pub was under a remediation order, about 20 people who weren’t on a rental list were evicted, according to a city official.

“We’ve got a long list that the volunteers look in on and it fluctuates between 18 and 25., which is why 24 beds kind of made sense,” George said. “Some have been housed, some have since moved on to treatment. But it seems like that 18 number is immediate need. We know that need is going to increase even more so.”

George said she is still waiting to hear back from Island Health and the city on her proposal to bring the homeless inside.

She submitted her proposal to Island Health for an operating grant in mid-November. While BC Housing takes care of physical housing—whether providing or renovating it—there are no grants available for service delivery, George discovered.

“Everything’s coming down to funding. Who’s responsible, who’s got the funds, who’s going to cover what and we go around and around and around. We’re losing people daily while we wait,” she said.

“It is a crisis; they’re out there and the weather’s not getting any better.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Housing and HomelessnessPort Alberni

 

The former Returning the Favour care home on Redford Street at Eighth Avenue, which Lisa George owns, would be available as emergency housing for people living on the streets under George’s proposal to Island Health. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The former Returning the Favour care home on Redford Street at Eighth Avenue, which Lisa George owns, would be available as emergency housing for people living on the streets under George’s proposal to Island Health. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read