There is no truth to the rumour that people from Nanaimo’s tent city are being shipped to Port Alberni.
“It’s absolutely untrue,” says Wes Hewitt, executive director for the Port Alberni Shelter Society, one of the agencies that looks after housing people who are homeless in the Alberni Valley.
A court-imposed deadline came into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, for everyone to vacate the tent city homeless camp in Nanaimo except those who are expecting to move into supportive housing in the coming weeks.
City crews were at Discontent City on Friday morning enforcing a fire safety order, Karen Fry, Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief and Nanaimo’s director of public safety told the Nanaimo News Bulletin.
Hewitt flew to Vancouver and back on Friday from a helicopter pad located right beside the tent city in Nanaimo and said there was no change by 6 p.m. on Friday. He said other than the 170 people moving into temporary supportive housing modular units, he had not heard of people relocating to Port Alberni.
“We do have some locations where there are tents in Port Alberni already and have had in the city where it’s ongoing. But I haven’t heard anything about 100 of them coming from Nanaimo,” Hewitt said on Friday.
He re-confirmed that Sunday afternoon, saying the rumour is “absolutely untrue.”
Hewitt phoned Canadian Mental Health Association—Port Alberni branch executive director Katrina Kiefer, who also looks after housing. She in turn phoned the Nanaimo Salvation Army, which runs the shelter in that city, and Kiefer told him there is no change to housing plans for Nanaimo tent city occupants.
Hewitt said the rumour of homeless people being shipped to Port Alberni by bus surfaces almost monthly. “People in the community start these rumours that are totally unsubstantiated—people that have no idea what’s going on—and everybody believes what they say.”