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Cold weather shelter to open at Eagles Hall in Port Alberni

The Bread of Life is beginning construction of a new low barrier shelter
The Eagles Hall is located on Lower Third Avenue in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

A cold weather shelter in Port Alberni will be relocated from its current place at the Bread of Life to the Eagles Hall on Lower Third Avenue.

The Bread of Life is currently providing an emergency extreme weather shelter, but this will need to be relocated as the Bread of Life begins construction of a new low barrier shelter. This low barrier shelter was approved by Port Alberni city council last year.

READ MORE: Temporary shelter approved at Bread of Life in Port Alberni

BC Housing, which funds the extreme weather shelter, has asked that the shelter be moved to the Eagles Hall (3561 Third Avenue) and operate as a cold weather shelter instead. According to BC Housing, a cold weather shelter is open every night during the winter, while an extreme weather shelter is only open during extreme weather alerts (such as cold temperatures, snow, heavy rain or significant wind).

The Eagles Hall shelter will offer 17 beds and will be open in the evenings every day of the week until March 31, 2023. The shelter will be staffed and operated by the Salvation Army. The owner of the Eagles Hall has provided permission to the Salvation Army to operate this shelter.

“This is temporary in nature,” the city’s manager of planning, Marianne Wade, emphasized to city council during a meeting on Monday, Jan. 23.

Because the area on Lower Third Avenue is currently zoned commercial, council had to make a special policy decision not to enforce the city’s zoning bylaws at the Eagles Hall while it is operating as a shelter. Councillor Todd Patola opposed the motion, stating that he doesn’t approve of the fact that the city is being asked to disregard its own bylaws.

However, Wade pointed out on Monday that time is of the essence, and a rezoning application or bylaw amendment would take too long.

Major Michael Ramsay of the Salvation Army explained that the Bread of Life’s contract with BC Housing says that renovations need to be completed by April 1 of this year. He added that the city has been experiencing even more “sheltering challenges” over the past few months because recent fires have displaced a number of tenants.

READ MORE: Fire crews called to Beaufort Hotel in Port Alberni’s uptown

“We need a place for 17 people to go so that they’re not living on the streets,” he said. “We would hate to have 17 more people without a roof over their head.”

Council agreed on Monday not to enforce zoning bylaws while the shelter is open. Patola voted against the motion, while Mayor Sharie Minions recused herself from the discussion and decision due to the fact that her husband works for the Salvation Army.

The Eagles Hall will be vetted by fire chief and building inspector to ensure that the building meets safety requirements.

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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