Discouragement overshadowed the words Friday of a gathering of people in Salmon Arm who are without homes.
Dampened by wet snow, the occasion April 3 was a sandwich and potato salad lunch courtesy of Chrissy Deye, Bill Greig and Lou and Dean Biggs. It was presented to people as they sat on an outdoor porch.
Those being served spoke about how difficult life is these days.
They talked about the absurdity for them of being told to stay home during COVID-19, when they don’t have homes.
One man said although people seem scared of each other right now, “they’re more scared of the homeless like us; they think we’re so dirty if we’re going into a place. Well I wash my hands about 30 times a day, and sanitize, and the thing is, they’re still using it against us. Well it’s not our fault we’re in this situation. Just bring out more homes.”
They talked about how hard it is to gather necessities when everything is closed.
One person who is not well-suited to staying at the Lighthouse shelter talked about the difficulty of acquiring blankets and a change of clothes with Churches Thrift Store closed.
Chris Davies lives in Ft. McMurray, Alta. and said he is stuck in Salmon Arm.
He was visiting here and decided to wait while his cheques were forwarded. However, that took longer than expected and COVID-19 protocols set in. He’s hoping to take a bus home but isn’t sure about getting a ticket all the way there or even if bus service will be available.
He said he would like to see what he’s seen in other communities: a place for people to go during the day. He said having to be outside for extended periods in the cold is hard on the older guys he’s met who are homeless.
“It lowers your immune system; it causes you to get sick. And then all you want to do when you’re sick is sleep, relax and stay still. You don’t want to do nothing when you’re sick.”
Those gathered also talked about the need now for public washrooms. One man said businesses don’t want homeless people to use their washrooms but residents get angry if people who are homeless relieve themselves outdoors. “Where are we supposed to go?”
One person said the washrooms at the Ross Street Plaza were a a good option. However, “somebody screwed it up for a lot of people. He broke into the utility area so they’ve been closing it at like 5 o’clock and not opening it till 11 (a.m.) – and that’s the only place we have to get warm. We can’t go into malls or nothing.”
The people gathered said Salmon Arm residents have been kind in terms of providing food. However, what’s also needed is housing.
Although a BC housing project is planned which will contain accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, it won’t be ready until fall 2021 at the earliest.
“I don’t know what to do anymore…It’s gotten to the point that I’m ready to give up,” one man said. “It’s hitting us harder than people think.”
Meanwhile, Chrissy Deye hopes to provide a lunch again soon.
“If someone wants to make even 10 sandwiches I’ll come and pick them up,” she said, as long as she doesn’t have to go far out of town.