The Salvation Army in Port Alberni is hoping to open a low barrier shelter in the Uptown area.
The Salvation Army is applying for a temporary use permit, which would allow them to operate a temporary low barrier shelter at the Bread of Life on Third Avenue, manager of planning Marianne Wade said.
The proposal seeks to repurpose the current drop-in centre space at the Bread of Life into a shelter with up to 25 beds. The shelter will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and the drop-in centre will remain open during the day. The shelter will be staffed and operated by the Salvation Army. The community soup kitchen next door will continue to operate separately.
A “low barrier” shelter means that entry requirements are minimal. Substance use will not be allowed on the property, but the shelter does not require sobriety, Wade explained during the June 27 city council meeting.
“It’s a place for people to seek shelter and get services,” she said.
Wade pointed out that the Bread of Life has previously offered temporary shelter under BC Housing’s emergency weather program over the last year.
“So there has been some temporary shelter being provided in this area,” said Wade.
BC Housing will be funding the shelter on an annual basis, reviewing and monitoring the need with each year.
Port Alberni’s most recent homeless count identified 125 people living without housing in the community in 2021.
Council agreed to send out notices to neighbouring businesses and residents. The application will come back to council for discussion and public input on July 11.
Mayor Sharie Minions recused herself from any decisions and discussion on Monday because her husband, Colin Minions, works with the Salvation Army.
Councillor Ron Paulson was opposed to the temporary use permit. He admitted that he was concerned about the compatibility of the surrounding area given the proximity of the Harbourview Apartments, which have ended up on the city’s nuisance list multiple times in the past few years.
“We have a fledgling business right across the street that they have put some significant capital investment into,” he added, referring to Dog Mountain Brewing. “And I’m a little concerned about the effect on a new business.”
Councillor Debbie Haggard pointed out that there are currently people living in doorways in the Uptown area.
“This will allow people to be sheltered, so it will actually help to clean up the area,” said Haggard.