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City of Port Alberni to take court action on illegal RV park housing vulnerable people

Move will come only after people are moved into BC Housing-funded tiny home village project
At least a dozen trailers are parked on two Fourth Avenue lots owned by Randy Brown. The City of Port Alberni says the trailers are parked illegally and they continue to issue tickets daily to Brown. (June 3, 2022) (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The addition of a tiny home village spearheaded by the Port Alberni Friendship Center will allow the City of Port Alberni to clean up an illegal RV park on Fourth Avenue.

The Port Alberni Friendship Center, in collaboration with a number of partners including BC Housing, has received funding to create Walyaqil—Tiny Home Village on a city-owned lot in the 3600-block of Fourth Avenue. The city purchased the lot in late 2021 and have made it available to the Friendship Center for its temporary housing facility.

“We feel extremely fortunate to receive this funding from BC Housing for this critical project,” said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions. She credited the people and organizations that make up the Supportive Housing Task Force, as well as the leadership of the Friendship Center with pulling together to solve the housing situation at Wintergreen Apartments and the dozen RVs that are parked on adjacent lots. Minions said the people in the trailers are “living in unsafe conditions.”

Watyaqit will have around-the-clock monitoring, washroom and shower facilities, and will have food and cultural events available for residents, Port Alberni Friendship Center executive director Cyndi Stevens said.

READ: ‘Tiny homes’ secured for vulnerable population in Port Alberni

The trailers appeared on private property in the fall of 2020; at the time, Fourth Avenue property owner Randy Brown said he was going to help solve the homelessness problem by bringing in the trailers.

He hooked some of them up to the city sewer system and brought electricity to some by using extension cords plugged into the apartment.

He did not retain any permits for the work, and did not ask the city’s permission to put the RVs on his property.

The city placed the property under a remediation order in late November 2020.

There are currently 12 trailers with approximately 30 residents, and another 10 residents living in the Wintergreen Apartments suites, according to Brown.

Minions said Friday that once the people living in the RVs are moved into the tiny homes, or sleeping pods, the city will take legal steps requiring Brown to remove the RVs from his property and bring the property into compliance with city bylaws.

“The city will also petition the courts for recovery of outstanding violation tickets in the amount of approximately $120,000,” she said.

Brown applauded the Friendship Center’s project and said he is already in the process of replacing the trailers on his property with sleeping pods similar to a temporary housing project in Duncan. He travelled to Chemainus last year, where the Duncan sleeping pods were being built, to figure out what he would need to do. He says he has built a prototype and approached the city with his idea.

“It’s absolutely great that they’re doing it. I don’t know what I’m going to do with mine,” he said.

Brown said he still receives daily bylaw violation tickets from the city for all three of his lots, primarily for contravention of bylaws and for rubbish.

“I don’t understand it. They give me these tickets on the one hand and on the other hand they say ‘we can’t move these people out of the trailers until they have a place to go.’

“They’re using me to house these people and then they want to pursue $120k in violations for doing their job.”

Brown said he has not been served with any court papers yet, but he intends to hire a lawyer and fight the tickets.

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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