Those experiencing homelessness in Port Alberni will soon have a new option for sheltering themselves from the coastal elements.

With housing costs on the rise there are more vulnerable people needing access to shelter than ever—those who are experiencing homelessness for a number of reasons.

The Walyaqil Tiny Shelter Village will add to the options people needing shelter have. 

“There’s definitely been an issue with housing,” said Cyndi Stevens, Executive Director of the Port Alberni Friendship Centre (PAFC).

“The price of houses have gone up, rent has increased a lot, there’s definitely less housing available and so we have noticed there are a lot of people needing to live with family or  they’re living in their cars or they’re living in tents.”

“It’s a lot of people you would never think would be doing that, but have no other solutions for housing.”

The site, located along the 3600-block of 4th Avenue in Port Alberni will have 30 temporary modular housing pods, shared washroom facilities, amenity spaces, an office for administration and facilitation, a bicycle parking area and two outdoor gathering spaces. 

Students from North Island College even got the opportunity to help their community by building the bases for the tiny shelters that are prefabricated and being sent over from the mainland.

(NIC helping during construction via Cyndi Stevens/PAFC)
(NIC helping during construction via Cyndi Stevens/PAFC)

The new shelter site will be operated by PAFC and will have staff on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

“We’ll have two staff per shift, every day,” Stevens told Victoria Buzz. “There won’t be actual security but our staff will take on that role.”

“It’ll be more support than it will be security.”

They will provide supports such as life-skills training, health and wellness support, three nutritious meals per day and other support that will be culturally inclusive for Indiginous Peoples using the facilities. 

The village will be a temporary measure until more permanent supportive housing can be built and currently has a two year lease, although Stevens, hopes that lease will be extended.

“It was a long haul to get this to where it is today,” Stevens told Victoria Buzz. “At one point we were concerned it may not happen after we had put all that work into it.”

“We’re really excited that BC Housing was able to come to the table and help us with the funding gap that we had and be able to move forward with this project in a timely way.”

Funding for the new shelters is coming from BC Housing in part. They are providing $726,000 for the project which includes $75,000 in start up costs. 

Additionally, BC Housing will be providing approximately $850,000 in annual operating funding.

The City of Port Alberni is providing the land in which the project will occupy and will be providing all utility services to the site. They have also committed a $165,000 grant to the project. 

The PAFC is also paying into the project with $226,000

The Walyaqil Tiny Shelter Village is set to be finished in early 2023.

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