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Port Alberni property owner ticketed for using motorhomes as shelters for homeless

City bylaw officers ticket owner for contravening zoning laws
Recreational vehicles parked behind a building on Fourth Avenue are behind used as temporary housing, contravening City of Port Alberni zoning bylaws. (CARA GIENI/ Special to the AV News)

A collection of motor homes that appeared a few weeks ago behind a Port Alberni building is causing concern among neighbours.

Property owner Randy Brown recently moved several travel trailers onto the side and rear lots of his property at 3629 Fourth Avenue. He said the plan is to have 15 of them on the property and offer them as housing for the winter.

“We have an emergency on our hands in Port Alberni. This is about the homeless,” Brown said in a brief presentation to Port Alberni City Council on Nov. 9. He said this is the fourth winter since he was told by city staff it “isn’t his job to solve the homeless problem in Port Alberni. Since then nothing has been done except giving out tents and toques and counting these individuals.”

He said the people to whom he is offering temporary housing don’t fit into the rules of the Our Home on Eighth shelter. He wants to move 15 travel trailers onto the property and hook them up to BC Hydro, city septic and water services.

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“In just three days I’ve collected over 40 names of people looking for housing that wouldn’t be welcome or fit into the shelter,” he said. He also said he collected 74 names of people that support his plan. He did not produce the petitions during council’s virtual meeting.

Brown’s name has been associated with other buildings that have hit the city’s nuisance list in past years. His green multi-storey building on Fourth Avenue, known legally as the Wintergreen, has been the subject of multiple calls to bylaw and RCMP.

Cara Gieni, who lives in the neighbourhood and regularly walks past the parking lot full of trailers, said they present a safety hazard. “I don’t know what they’re hooked up to; they have cords hooked up everywhere. There’s garbage everywhere and (people) are always walking around at night. There are burn piles there.

“Somebody’s going to get hurt.”

Chief administrative officer Tim Pley said bylaw officers have been regularly attending the property. “He’s not allowed to have (the trailers) on his property and occupied,” Pley said. “Bylaw has been there and writing tickets on a daily basis.”

Occupying a motor home or travel trailer on city property contravenes zoning, he added.

Gieni said she understands the people living in the trailers are vulnerable and need a roof over their heads.

“I’m just scared something is going to blow up and there’s going to be a fire,” Gieni said. “Winter is just around the corner and if there are more people using space heaters in their trailers I keep thinking of an electrical fire. We need people warm but not like this.”

During the Nov. 9 council meeting, councillor Ron Paulson asked for city staff to investigate the legality and liability of activities on Brown’s Fourth Avenue property.

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Several recreational vehicles and open-sided tents can be seen in the back and side lots behind the building on Fourth Avenue—Winter Green—that Randy Brown and Martin Chambers own. Nov. 13, 2020 (CARA GIENI/ Special to the AV News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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