The Salvation Army in Port Alberni has procured the use of a mobile shower trailer to help homeless and marginalized people in the city.
The mobile showers are on loan from the Salvation Army ARC in Victoria, said Port Alberni Salvation Army Capt. Michael Ramsay. The three-stall unit arrived in the Alberni Valley on March 23 and will be put to use in late April.
City council on April 11 entered into a “license of occupation” agreement with the Salvation Army to use city-owned land to intermittently provide access to shower facilities for the city’s unhoused population. Mayor Sharie Minions recused herself from discussion, declaring a conflict because her husband Colin works with the Salvation Army.
City council will allow the mobile showers to be placed on an empty lot in front of Dry Creek Park from 6–10 p.m. (with extra setup and takedown time) up to four days a week, with the understanding that they must be moved off the property outside of these hours. The Salvation Army will be permitted access to the sanitation dump at the Quadrant (Fourth Avenue and Napier Street), close to their intended mobile site.
The agreement is similar to the arrangements the city made with the Grassroots Homelessness Coalition last fall when they held their pop-up outdoor warming centre on Fourth Avenue as well as the Tidebrook property on Gertrude Street.
Ramsay said the showers will be staffed, sanitized between uses and through the thrift store they will try and provide clean clothing for people to have after their showers. The Salvation Army has been talking to partners about having the showers available for people who need to prepare for job interviews. Kuu-us Crisis Line Society will be assisting Salvation Army with the showers.
If the program takes off, Ramsay will apply to keep the shower unit in Port Alberni.
The mobile showers are a good start to bring dignity to people living rough or without housing, says Ron Merk, co-chair of the Port Alberni Community Action Team.
“The actual shower (project) the Salvation Army has going on, we’re supportive of that,” he said. “We’re supportive of any initiative like that, that gets services out to the marginalized in our community.”
The CAT has asked the City of Port Alberni to provide and service permanent public washroom facilities that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Right now there are facilities at the Bread of Life during operating hours. Ramsay said the Salvation Army and Bread of Life are also in the process of building shower facilities at the Third Avenue facility.
“Access to washrooms is a fundamental human right,” Merk wrote in January. “We believe provisioning them is part of basic municipal public infrastructure, just like parks, roads, sewers, rec centres, public art.
“We have received substantial feedback from peers, the homeless and the marginalized community on how difficult and dehumanizing it is to find facilities in Port Alberni.”
The CAT is asking for washrooms in two locations: one on Third Avenue around Angus and Athol streets, or perhaps the planned public safety building. A second location would be near the overdose prevention site at Third Avenue and Bute Street.
“People who are marginalized have a difficult time accessing any of these services, whether they are washrooms or showers,” said Merk. It’s desperately needed in our community.”