Pacific Rim Children and Family have generated a web page to help make it simple to find what supports are available to people and families. In Port Alberni, there are nine different programs to help individuals receive food.
View Pacific Rim Children and Family Community Food Programs and Support: Here
For future visits to the site, Huu-ay-aht First Nations have made an easy link. After opening the Huuayaht.org website, at the top bar where it says “Services,” use that Drop down menu. After opening that drop-down menu, proceed to “Health & Social Services,” where “Community Food Programs and Support ” is at the top of the page.
To go straight to Health &Social Services, use this link: Here
On Monday, April 17, 2023, The Oomiiqsu (Aboriginal Mother Centre) grounds were cleansed before any work begins on the property.
In attendance was Tseshaht Chief Councillor, Ken Watts, Hupačasatḥ Chief Councillor, Brandy Launder, Huu-ay-aht Ḥaw̓iiḥ Councillor, Jeff Cook, Huu-ay-aht Executive Councillor, Edward R. Johnson, Huu-ay-aht Child and Family Wellness Director, Shannon Zimmerman.
Together, they sent prayers up to the ancestors as they spread eagles down over the property where the Oomiiqsu will be located. In first nation culture, doing this ceremony cleanses the land before important business happens.
Site prep work started following the ceremony, and the ground breaking is expected to happen in May 2023.
In accordance with the Social Service Panel Report (2017) see recommendations 26 (work to establish a center modelled on the Vancouver Aboriginal Mothers Center): Social Service Panel Report
In accordance with the Social Service Evaluation (2020) areas of focus – Huu-ay-aht to secure operational funding for the Oomiiqsu Mother Centre. Refer to: Social Service Evaculation Report
Huu-ay-aht has secured a location, and funding to build and cover initial operating costs of the Oomiiqsu in partnership with the Province. Refer to:
PORT ALBERNI – Huu-ay-aht First Nations and B.C. are celebrating the creation of the Oomiiqsu (Aboriginal Mother Centre), a new housing, support and child care centre that will help Indigenous women and children on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
“Huu-ay-aht has turned over many stones to reach this point of having a mother centre,” said Edward R. Johnson, Huu-ay-aht Councillor. “Through the voices of our citizens in the Social Services Report, it is apparent that Oomiiqsu is going to create a positive impact to Huu-ay-aht families and children in preventing the traumas that many families have had to face. Oomiiqsu is going to be a place to bring children home, where mothers and children will feel safe, healthy and connected, and they will be able to look back and tell many wonderful stories.”
As part of Huu-ay-aht Social Services Project formed in 2017, 30 recommendations were created in the report “Safe, Healthy and Connected: Bringing Huu-ay-aht Children Home.” Oomiiqsu is a response to recommendation 26.
Oomiiqsu, meaning mother, is an Indigenous-led model of care developed by Huu-ay-aht in consultation with its members. The two-storey transition housing, child care and support centre will be managed and operated by the Huu-ay-aht government’s Child and Family Wellness Department. The centre will provide a safe and culturally appropriate home for as many as 48 mothers and children leaving violence or abuse, facing mental-health and addictions challenges, poverty or other trauma.
“This partnership between the Province and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations will make an important difference on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where many communities are remote and provide few options for mothers and their children in need,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Minister Responsible for Housing. “At Oomiiqsu, they will find stability, security and access to support in a way that works specifically for the Nuu-chah-nulth people. I commend the leadership and staff of Huu-ay-aht First Nations for creating this innovative opportunity to work together on these much-needed new transition homes.”
The centre will have private bedrooms and washrooms; shared living, kitchen and dining spaces; and laundry facilities. Residents will have access to on-site child care that will include eight spaces for children as old as three and 16 spaces for children 30 months to school age. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ Child and Family Wellness Department will have office space on the first floor of the building.
Huu-ay-aht will operate the building, providing support services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to Indigenous mothers experiencing violence. Wraparound supports provided by the Province will give families the best chance of staying together and will help address systemic factors leading to the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in care.
The project is made possible thanks to a partnership between the Huu-ay-aht and the B.C. Government. The Province is investing as much as $5 million for Huu-ay-aht First Nations to cover initial operating costs for the Oomiiqsu Mother’s Centre. BC Housing is investing approximately $10 million through the Building BC: Women’s Transition Housing Fund and will provide $88,000 in annual operating funding. The Ministry of Education and Child Care is providing nearly $800,000 for child care spaces.
By honouring First Nations culture and focusing on reviving familial, community and cultural connections, this new model of care is an essential part of reconciliation. The centre will open for women and children in summer 2024.
Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim – “Oomiiqsu is a unique, Indigenous-led approach to family services that will make Huu-ay-aht and other communities along the west coast of Vancouver Island stronger and healthier. The centre is an opportunity to support Huu-ay-aht’s vision to advance child welfare matters and support resilient families and children.”
Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care – “Oomiiqsu will provide Indigenous-led child care and wraparound supports and services that focus on healing and strengthening families. For many vulnerable families and those dealing with various trauma – notably mothers – being able to access culturally appropriate child care in a safe space is the peace of mind needed to continue on their healing journeys, and Oomiiqsu offers this holistic approach.” Quick Facts: • Oomiiqsu is modelled after the Vancouver Aboriginal Mother’s Centre, which was established in 2002 in Vancouver’s east end. • Huu-ay-aht First Nations is an Indigenous community located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is a part of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, formerly called the Nootka. • Huu-ay-aht is a party to the Maa-nulth Final Agreement, a modern treaty that grants its five member Nations constitutionally protected self-government, as well as ownership, control and law-making authority over their lands and resources. • As with all projects for women and children leaving violence, the address of this project has not been disclosed for safety reasons.
Offering support and healing from multi-generational trauma is a key focus that came out of Huu-ay-aht’s independent Social Services Panel’s work. In the final report one of the recommendations was to work to establish a centre modeled on the Vancouver Mother Centre.
“Building a road to healing the effects of multi-generational trauma will be of fundamental and central importance to bringing Huu-ay-aht children ‘home’ and keeping them safe, healthy, and connected with Huu-ay-aht community and culture. This healing must be done family by family and collectively as a Nation.” (Social Services Project p. 24)
Huu-ay-aht First Nations and the Port Alberni Mother Centre Society has been working with B.C. Housing to develop an Aboriginal Mother Centre, Oomiiqsu, in Port Alberni (Recommendation 26 of the Social Services Project). Oomiiqsu, which means mother in Nuu-chah-nulth, is a unique, creative, and culturally appropriate approach to keeping families together, while providing them with the necessary guidance and tools to not only prevent children from entering care, but also for the families to flourish once outside of Oomiiqsu. Mothers and children (12 and under) will live in Oomiiqsu and receive wrap-around supports to address ongoing safety concerns from Usma (DAA) and/or Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Oomiiqsu will house multiple programs and services to support Huu-ay-aht and other Nuu-chah-nulth families:
12-unit residential program for mothers and their children, ages 9-12
Four second-stage housing units
Oomiiqsu Child Care Centre
Office space for the Child and Family Wellness Department
Land has been purchased by BC Housing at 4305 Kendall Avenue and design plans for Oomiiqsu and Oomiiqsu Child Care Centre are complete. The Nation is still finalizing the plan for the centre, and we look forward to sharing this rendering with everyone once plans are finalized.
Further progress on the project is subject to other approvals and funding from partners, but Huu-ay-aht is committed to making this centre a reality. As we move through the initial steps, we will continue to offer regular updates when they are available.
Huu-ay-aht made a rezoning application to the City of Port Alberni on September 14, 2020. Signage notifying the public of this rezoning will be posted at the proposed site within 15 days to notify the public.
This is an exciting project for Huu-ay-aht and the Alberni Valley, and we look forward to sharing more information from you as the plan progresses.