Cash a welcome sight for Alberni homeless advocates

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District announced they were distributing $285,000 to five local agencies to help with the homelessness issue.

Port Alberni Shelter Society director Wes Hewitt and the board can start drawing up plans for a new facility to replace the one the shelter has outgrown on Eighth Avenue.

The homeless issue in Port Alberni got a shot in the arm this week and more help could be on the way.

On Monday, the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District announced they were distributing $285,000 to five local agencies to help with the homelessness issue.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority underwrote the initiative with a one-time grant.

The ACRD engaged the Community Stakeholders Initiative to End Homelessness (CSI) to quarterback drawing up criterion and making recommendations about allocating the money.

At $95,500, the largest recipient of funds was the Port Alberni Shelter Society. The grant is to be used for pre-design services and a schematic design for a new facility.

The Alberni Valley Community Foundation received $85,000. The Port Alberni Friendship Centre was awarded $47,500 for a tenant advocacy project.

And $16,600 went to the West Coast Women’s Resource Society for a Homeless outreach enhancement project.

The groups are all members of the CSI, which is more of an ad-hoc group as opposed to a formally structured one.

Proposals were solicited by CSI in the spring and criteria included having an objective related to homelessness, a clear objective achievable in one year, and a broad impact.

The money may have been awarded to individual groups, but the impact will be wider.

“They have a broad reaching impact that benefits the Valley and the West Coast,” ACRD chief administrative officer Russell Dyson said.

“The benefits are anywhere from day-to-day needs like linen to an expanded facility to help alleviate homelessness.”

While only five groups have been awarded grants, everybody won, shelter director Wes Hewitt said. “We’re not rubbing our hands and saying “oh boy, we got it”,” he said. “We’re all members of CSI and we’re all dealing with the homelessness issue on a common front.”

The grant enables the shelter to take another step in its journey towards building a new facility. The existing facility has outgrown its current location on Eighth Avenue and the society would like to build a bigger place across the street.

Work on the schematic will start as soon as possible. The finished product will serve as a guide from which a hard dollar value can be extrapolated.

Despite the grant, the society faces the even tougher challenge of lobbying for building funds.

“The process can take four to five years,” Hewitt said.

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