The Bread of Life will reopen in December as a daytime warming centre for Port Alberni’s homeless population.
The centre on Third Avenue has been closed to the public since March, when provincial COVID-19 restrictions came into effect.
The centre’s kitchen has been headquarters for meal-making for the COVID-19 Response Team since April, although the facility was closed to everyone except for kitchen staff and organizers. The kitchen will continue to be used to make the 400-500 meals that are served daily via the Salvation Army’s mobile kitchen truck. Meals will not be available at the Bread of Life—only 40 people will be permitted in the warming centre at one time, said spokesperson John Edmondson. They are hoping to be able to offer coffee to patrons, if the health inspector allows.
The warming centre will not interfere with the kitchen; the public part will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays “until we can secure additional funding and then we’ll be open Monday through Friday,” BOL board chair Colin Minions said.
He said the board would like to see the warming centre open seven days a week, “but I don’t foresee us getting that kind of funding.”
Edmondson said the board decided in late October to go ahead with the warming centre—about the same time as a protest cropped up on the grounds of Our Home on Eighth shelter. Among other things, protesters lamented the fact there is no warming centre open.
Edmondons and Salvation Army Captain Michael Ramsay hope the Bread of Life’s warming centre will be open by Dec. 1, depending on a second health inspection.
Crews from RCF Painting have been renovating the main room and the room formerly used as a pantry; both will be used for seating. The BOL is in the process of hiring a manager and a cleaner.
“It’s very complicated to just (open a building),” Edmondson said, explaining why it has taken weeks to get to this point.
Learning that a warming centre will open was welcome news for Katrina Kiefer, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Port Alberni branch.
“There has been a big vacuum in the community since Bread of Life had to close,” she said.
“People could go there and get a meal prior to COVID (meals are now delivered to people every day at various locations via the Salvation Army’s mobile kitchen truck).
“It has been a huge gap because people had no place to go. I’m happy to hear they’re opening.”