Alice Sam, left, Graham Hughes and Lisa George (holding Hughes’ puppy Riot) volunteer at a nighttime ‘pop-up’ warming centre at a city-owned parking lot on Fourth Avenue, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. The temporary warming shelter included two propane firepits, food, warm drinks, Naloxone and hygiene kits. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Alice Sam, left, Graham Hughes and Lisa George (holding Hughes’ puppy Riot) volunteer at a nighttime ‘pop-up’ warming centre at a city-owned parking lot on Fourth Avenue, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. The temporary warming shelter included two propane firepits, food, warm drinks, Naloxone and hygiene kits. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Trial run for ‘pop-up’ warming centre in Port Alberni

The Grassroots Homelessness Coalition Society is helping Port Alberni’s vulnerable people

A group of volunteers that have been helping Port Alberni’s vulnerable people have formalized their work with the new Grassroots Homelessness Coalition Society. Their first act—beyond filing for official society status—was to operate a “pop-up” warming shelter for three nights last weekend.

The Grassroots Homelessness Coalition, or GHC, is Lisa George, Alice Sam and Leslie Mitchell—the three principles who have been pushing for more services for the city’s hard-to-house residents that aren’t served by the Port Alberni Shelter Society’s facilities.

They received permission for a pilot weekend to set up their warming shelter from 6 p.m., to midnight on city property at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Napier Street. The proviso was that the shelter must be taken down every night. George said they had an answer for every roadblock the city put in front of them. The city agreed a pilot “would enable the parties to learn and assess impacts,” city CAO Tim Pley said.

The pop-up warming centre is the second to begin operation in recent weeks. The Bread of Life has reopened as a warming centre from 12–4 p.m. to bridge the gap between the time Our Home on Eighth closes to clients in the morning and reopens again at dinnertime. The Bread of Life recently extended its days of operation to five days a week.

The Bread of Life warming centre offers people who don’t have a home to go to a place to get in out of the cold, have a warm drink and use a restroom.

The GHC’s warming shelter is temporary: it had to be set up and taken down between 6 p.m. and midnight. It offered COVID-19 compliant seating around two propane fires, warm drinks, individually packaged sandwiches and bowls of chili. Naloxone kits and hygiene packages were also available to anyone who needed them.

George said they are taking names of people coming to the shelter, both for contact tracing as well as to keep track of who is using their service. This was a suggestion from the Victoria Homelessness Coalition advocates, who are providing advice to the GHC.

Pley said safety, liability and potential negative impacts on neighbours were some of the city’s concerns when granting temporary use of their parking lot. “The city recognizes that GHC is volunteer-based and wanting to provide a needed service,” he said. “The city’s goal is to enable that service provision while avoiding potential associated negative impacts.”

George said the GHC will debrief with city officials to see how the shelter went and how much it was used. There were 32 people who stopped by the first night, and in a 45-minute span early on Saturday there were seven who came to warm up and have a meal—not all at the same time. Final numbers were not available before the AV News went to press.

George is hoping the nighttime warming centre will be allowed to continue as long as its services are needed. Pley said the city would need to see insurance coverage in place and a permit too, since it is city land.

“The city would like to receive feedback from neighbours and have a means of ensuring that neighbours continue to not be negatively impacted,” he said.

“The city would like to see GHC work in cooperation with other service providers so that their services and schedules complement the services and schedules of others.”

Alice Sam said the ultimate goal of the society is not to have to operate the warming centre at all, but to have housing for everyone that needs it.

“At this point, the work that Alice, Leslie and Lisa have been able to accomplish is incredible,” said Graham Hughes, who kickstarted the grassroots movement when he started a tent city in front of Our Home on Eighth shelter while running as a candidate for MLA in the Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding.

“At the end of the day, the thing that unifies all of the volunteers…we’ve started to be connected to all of these people. We created a place where people knew people cared about them.”



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictHousing and HomelessnessPort Alberni

Just Posted

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

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

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

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

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read