A community group wants to re-open the previous shelter building, located on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Maitland Street, as temporary housing for the homeless. The PA Shelter Society owns the building. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

A community group wants to re-open the previous shelter building, located on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Maitland Street, as temporary housing for the homeless. The PA Shelter Society owns the building. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Emergency housing idea pitched to solve Port Alberni’s growing tent city

Protester Graham Hughes wants former shelter opened, but society says it is in use

A community group is petitioning to have Port Alberni’s former shelter building re-open to house people camping in a growing tent city in front of the current Our Home on Eighth shelter. The tents have been erected as part of a protest that former B.C. election candidate Graham Hughes initiated prior to the Oct. 24 election.

Hughes has camped out in front of Port Alberni’s present shelter for more than 10 days, except for the time he spent in jail on Friday, Oct. 30. Hughes was detained after entering the shelter and asking for a bed, then refusing to leave when he was told no.

Hughes and others are asking for a transitional action plan for the homeless members sleeping in tents in front of the shelter. Hughes said the housing would be temporary, “not…a new service model but to find an immediate way to house people.”

Lisa George, a community healthcare service provider in Port Alberni, has been acting as a frontline volunteer for the tent city participants. She says she has the experience to run a transitional program so that hard-to-house clients would be supervised.

The PA Shelter Society still owns the former shelter building and uses it for emergency beds in the winter, executive director Wes Hewitt said. “It has been last year and this year. There are 12 overflow beds used in that building. We fill (Our Home on Eighth shelter) first. When this site is full we overflow into (the previous) one.”

Last year the shelter society “came close” to filling the new shelter facility, so the society negotiated with BC Housing for the dozen overflow beds. “We never filled (the overflow) to capacity.”

The building is not being used for COVID-19 beds, as some rumours would suggest. “There were discussions but nothing ever came of it,” Hewitt said.

The former building, which had space for 48 beds at one time, was closed when Our Home on Eighth opened in March 2019. Hewitt said the shelter society’s long-term plans are to tear the building down and build a new seniors’ facility.

George said if the former shelter building isn’t available then she hopes some other building in town would be made available: a church, old school, community hall, etc. “There’s lots of sites available around town” where the hard-to-house could find shelter in winter, she said.

Port Alberni mayor Sharie Minions indicated in a social media post that she would be agreeable to some sort of temporary shelter opening to help move people out of tents and indoors. George said that remains the biggest problem at the moment.

“The protest Graham Hughes started was originally to address how the shelter was being run,” George said. “That part’s been covered (with a review pending). Let’s face it, that’s a government body—how long is that going to take? What happens with the people sleeping on the ground in front of the shelter?”

The tent city accompanying Hughes’ protest in front of Our Home on Eighth started Oct. 23 and as of Nov. 2 had grown to 14 tents, a large cover and a propane firepit relocated to the edge of an old cement helipad next to the shelter. Some of the residents moved to tents because they didn’t want to live with the rules of the multi-service shelter. Others are living in tents because they aren’t permitted inside the shelter and have nowhere else to go.

“Eighty percent of the people in tents can’t access the shelter,” George said. “Some are on the banned list, some are by choice.”

Creating a transitional housing plan for the tent city residents “is an opportunity to get some talking happening,” she added.

Housing and HomelessnessPort Alberni

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


The former shelter society building on Eighth Avenue across the street from Our Home on Eighth has “no trespassing” signs up. It is used as overflow housing. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The former shelter society building on Eighth Avenue across the street from Our Home on Eighth has “no trespassing” signs up. It is used as overflow housing. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Just Posted

Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens is a multi-level care facility for seniors, located on Russell Place in Port Alberni. (ELENA RARDON/ Alberni Valley News)
Third case of COVID-19 confirmed at Tsawaayuus Rainbow Gardens

Second resident diagnosed with illness from Nov. 16 outbreak

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

A sign at the entrance to Ty-Histanis asks visitors to stay out of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation announces lockdown after member tests positive for COVID-19

Essential travel only and restricted to Tofino and Ucluelet.

Joe and Della Drinkwater pose for a formal portrait circa 1898. The Drinkwater name has been a noted one since the 1800s, and numerous landmarks and streets are named for different family members. Drinkwater Creek at the headwaters to Great Central Lake was named for Joe Drinkwater, who had a number of mining claims in the Drinkwater Valley. Joe named Della Falls—the highest waterfall in British Columbia—after his wife Della (née Fayette). The couple was married in December 1899. This photo is one of 24,000 in the Alberni Valley Museum’s online archives, available for public viewing at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN01129 COURTESY AV MUSEUM)
A LOOK BACK: Joe Drinkwater carves a name for himself in the Alberni Valley

Take a peek at the history of the Alberni Valley with the AV Museum

The Harbourview Apartments on Third Avenue (popularly referred to as “The Frigstad”). ELENA RARDON PHOTO
Port Alberni city council to discuss Harbourview Apartments in-camera

Owner of the property failed to meet Nov. 12 deadline

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

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

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read