The proposed “Mothers’ Centre” on Kendall Avenue in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY HUU-AY-AHT FIRST NATIONS)

The proposed “Mothers’ Centre” on Kendall Avenue in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY HUU-AY-AHT FIRST NATIONS)

Huu-ay-aht First Nations prepare to build Oomiiqsu, a unique centre for mothers and children

Centre will include childcare centre, live-in housing units for young families

Huu-ay-aht First Nations and BC Housing have partnered to develop a unique, creative and culturally appropriate Mother Centre to keep Indigenous families together.

On May 25, Port Alberni city council voted to approve the zoning amendments and official community plan amendments for Oomiiqsu Mother Centre. The facility, located on 4305 Kendall Avenue, will provide housing and support services for Indigenous mothers and children. Oomiiqsu is the Nuu-chah-nulth word for “mother.”

Development planner Brian McLoughlin explained that Oomiiqsu will be a two-storey building with 16 living units, in addition to child-care spaces, administration offices and meeting rooms. Twelve of these units will be shared units, while four will be independent.

“The intent of the development is to address those existing gaps in child and family services,” said McLoughlin.

In 2016, Huu-ay-aht First Nations formed a panel to explore and recommend changes and improvements to child and family services for Huu-ay-aht families. The panel provided a report with 30 recommendations, and the Mothers’ Centre came out of these recommendations.

READ MORE: Huu-ay-aht First Nations commits $400k to help children

During a City of Port Alberni public hearing on May 13, Huu-ay-aht councillor Edward Johnson said that there is an over-representation of Indigenous children in care. According to the 2016 Canadian census, Indigenous children represented only 7.7 percent of all children under the age of 15 in Canada, but accounted for more than 50 percent of children in foster care.

“That statistic speaks for itself,” said Johnson. “This is a new model of care that’s going to bring more children home. It’s going to keep families together and it’s going to reduce those traumas to families.”

During the public hearing Oomiiqsu received several letters of support, including letters from the Port Alberni RCMP, School District 70, Island Health and a number of First Nations.

Oomiiqsu will provide a facility for mothers and their children (12 and under) to live in and receive wrap-around supports. The facility will provide a wide range of services, safe housing, mentorship and learning opportunities and supported and safe childcare. Oomiiqsu is based on traditional Huu-ay-aht teachings, with a focus on healing from intergenerational trauma through access to on-site programs and individual and group support. Elders and other community members will teach Nuu-chah-nulth language and share traditions, ceremonies, songs, drumming, dance, crafts and traditional food.

Huu-ay-aht will also operate its child and family wellness department from the location.

“It’s going to be more than four walls and a ceiling,” said Johnson. “It’s going to create healing, not only for Huu-ay-aht but for Nuu-chah-nulth and other surrounding nations.”

Oomiiqsu will also include a child care centre. On May 19, the province announced that it would be providing more than $700,000 in funding to BC Housing and Huu-ay-aht to create 24 child-care spaces at Oomiiqsu.

READ MORE: Port Alberni receives provincial funding for child-care spaces

For the child care centre, priority will be given to children living in Oomiiqsu. But Shannon Zimmerman, director of child and family wellness, says any empty spaces would be opened up to other Indigenous families, then to the general community.

“This program has given a lot of hope to the community,” Zimmerman said during the May 13 public hearing. “This means a lot to Nuu-chah-nulth families overall.”

BC Housing is the landowner and project funder, while Huu-ay-aht will operate and manage the facility. Tara Schmidt, BC Housing development manager, said that BC Housing chose the Kendall Avenue location largely because of its proximity to services. It is located on a public transit line and many amenities (such as Echo Centre and Bob Dailey Stadium) are within walking distance.

Construction is set to begin soon and is estimated to take 16 months.



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

IndigenousPort Alberni

Just Posted

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

CELEBRATING IN STYLE
Members of the 2021 Alberni District Secondary School graduating class pose for a photo at McLean Mill National Historic Site on June 12. Graduates held their prom on Saturday, although things looked a little different due to COVID-19. See more on page A10. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni 2021 grads celebrate prom with car cruise

Special event held at McLean Mill National Historic Site

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

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

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

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-month-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre estimates that less than five per cent of mass-marketing fraud is ever reported.
Tips to avoid scams targeting Vancouver Island seniors

In most cases, fraudsters impersonate an individual, business or agency seniors recognize and trust

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

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

Most Read