Port Alberni Shelter Society executive director Wes Hewitt talks about the partnerships that led to the opening of Our Home on 8th shelter, March 1. SUSAN QUINN/Alberni Valley News

New Port Alberni shelter opens on Eighth Avenue

Supportive housing, short-term and wet weather beds included in facility

Port Alberni’s new shelter and supportive housing officially opened on Friday, March 1, with politicians and community dignitaries on hand.

The new modular housing project will provide around-the-clock support and housing for people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s a long time coming,” said Wes Hewitt, executive director for the Port Alberni Shelter Society. The process began in 2010 but stalled a couple of times before the society and Island Health came to an agreement.

“This facility will go a long way in servicing the needs of the community.”

“We’re going to be able to make a difference in the community. The partnerships we have with Island Health, they are co-locating some of their programs within the building and will make it easier to work with the clients and be of benefit.”

The modular units were constructed by Muchalat Group of Companies in their Cumberland manufacturing facility and transported to Port Alberni, where they were placed on a foundation that had been excavated earlier.

The new shelter, called Our Home on 8th, will have a slight increase in numbers over the previous facility: 30 self-contained units upstairs, 18 short-term shelter beds, a family unit that can house six people and an additional 18 “wet weather” spots. There is a full commercial kitchen and some common areas such as a dining room in the building, as well as adequate bathroom facilities.

“This building is an example of what you can accomplish with modular construction,” Hewitt said.

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said she is happy to see the project come to fruition. “We believe that every person, regardless of their struggles, should have access to safe, secure and affordable housing. We are proud to see this project in our community as there is nothing more foundational to creating stability and positive change in life than having a place to call home.”

Residents in supportive housing will be charged $375 per month, which is the social assistance shelter allowance provided by the province to people experiencing homelessness. Hewitt said he doesn’t expect a large turnover in the supportive housing, as that’s not the purpose of those units.

“You want people to stabilize. You want them to move to market rentals with rent subsidies or market rentals that they can afford.”

Hewitt expected to receive an occupancy certificate early this week, and said they would begin transferring people from the previous shelter to the new facility as soon as that happens.

Scott Fraser, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim, said 13 supportive housing units will be opening in B.C. in the coming weeks—part of the provincial government’s commitment to deliver more than 2,000 units of supportive housing in the province.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

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