PORT ALBERNI - The Port Alberni Friendship Center (PAFC) has been chosen as the new operator of the Our Home on Eighth supportive housing and shelter building in Port Alberni.
The announcement was made by BC Housing late in the afternoon on Monday, March 20.
The PA Friendship Center will begin managing Our Home on Eighth, located at 3939 Eighth Ave., on April 1, 2023, taking over from the Port Alberni Shelter Society (PASS). There will be no interruption of services to current shelter guests or supportive housing residents, according to BC Housing.
The non-profit Friendship Center also runs the tiny home village that is under construction on Fourth Avenue. When finished, there will be 30 “tiny homes” or temporary housing for Port Alberni’s unhoused that are currently living in a collection of off-grid trailers in the lot next door.
The provincial housing entity announced its intention at the end of December 2022 to end its contract with PASS for the Eighth Avenue shelter by March 31, 2023. The shelter society operated Our Home on Eighth since it opened in 2019; PASS was responsible for having the new shelter built at 3939 Eighth Ave., across from the previous shelter.
Shelter operators came under public scrutiny in the fall of 2020 after protesters put up a tent city in front of the Eighth Avenue facility, complaining about conditions in the shelter. The protest lasted for several weeks. A third-party consultant was hired to look into the allegations and in March 2021 released its report with 10 recommendations for changes to improve service, safety and communication. Some recommendations were made to increase safety of women in co-ed facilities as well as develop more clear strategies to welcome Indigenous people to use shelter and housing services.
At the time of the review PASS said 19 percent of its clientele at the shelter were Indigenous people.
Residents in transitional housing at the shelter recently voiced concerns for shelter employees and fellow residents as they waited to hear who the new operator would be.
BC Housing invited select non-profit housing and shelter operators to submit proposals to operate Our Home on 8th in January 2023. The invitation focused on Indigenous-led operators to best support guests and residents, the majority of whom identify as Indigenous. The shelter society was not invited to bid for the contract.
The PAFC will have experienced staff onsite around the clock to provide residents and guests with supports, including daily meals, life-skills training, employment assistance and counselling, physical and mental-health resources, and access to addiction treatment and recovery services. Indigenous culture will be interwoven into all programs and services by offering opportunities for residents, visitors, and guests to experience culture, language, singing, drumming, and traditional medicines and teachings from Elders and knowledge keepers.