The remains of a camp for a few homeless people on the Trans-Canada Highway across from DeMille’s Farm Market sits dismantled on Feb. 12 with the piles of trees cleared from the land behind it. The people staying there were told to leave during the week of Feb. 4 on the order of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure so the land could be prepared for the upcoming four-laning highway project. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

The remains of a camp for a few homeless people on the Trans-Canada Highway across from DeMille’s Farm Market sits dismantled on Feb. 12 with the piles of trees cleared from the land behind it. The people staying there were told to leave during the week of Feb. 4 on the order of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure so the land could be prepared for the upcoming four-laning highway project. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Five years ago, homeless man ‘had everything’

Shuswap man talks about need to remember homeless people had better lives

Once upon a better time, life was good for Greg Webber.

Now, a typical day means: “Try to find a job, try to find money, try to find heat, try to find food, try to find a place to live.”

Webber was camping at the west end of Salmon Arm until a couple of weeks ago when he, like several other people without homes, was told to move to make room for land clearing the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure wanted to do in preparation for a four-laning project on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Thanks to caring members of the community, he and a few others were provided with rooms at the Travelodge in Salmon Arm, while temperatures hovered around -15 C and lower.

“It’s a blessing, it really is,” he said of the respite in the motel. “I needed a break. I lost hope…”

Related: Homeless tenters must move for four-laning preparation

Up until five years ago, Webber had two jobs – as a mechanic and in silviculture, was paying a mortgage on a house in Penticton, and he and his sister had two rentals. He had a long-standing marriage and two children.

He enjoyed lots of mountain biking and camping and was stronger, much more muscular.

Then, five years ago, he suffered a stroke, probably connected to being struck by a vehicle when he was just 17.

“I had everything, but I had to sell it all.”

Webber didn’t get disability insurance for a long time but was able to survive while he and his spouse were living together.

But then they split up.

“Very tough,” is how he describes the break, pointing out they had been together for nearly three decades.

Related: Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

Now, he can’t find a place to live he can afford, and can’t find a job – not even part-time, as he was left with some difficulty forming words clearly as well as having daily seizures following the stroke.

“Whenever an employer hears that I have seizures, that’s it, interview’s over. I get all the luck — it’s like the lottery backwards,” he says, his sense of humour still intact. “I get the rarest form of seizures. It’s similar to narcolepsy.”

To earn money, he tries to busk every day, playing guitar. Some days, like this one, his fingers get too cold to play. Three months ago, his guitar broke.

“My friend gave me a new one. People are really awesome.”

Well, some people. Webber says strangers will look at him like he’s evil or sick.

“Like I’m diseased. It’s almost impossible to rent a place as everyone sees me as being homeless.”

“But I see a lot of good in other people now,” he continues. “I used to look at (homeless) people the same way others do. Until it happened to me. It’s what I deserve I guess.”

He says he’s been sober for 15 years and stayed away from drugs for 17, but has indulged in drugs in the last two years to try to ease the pain of being homeless.

Related: Street life taking its toll

He thinks the solution to his and many other people’s predicament is simple. More housing. Affordable housing.

Often people don’t understand, he says. They just assume he can work and he’s fine.

“They have no idea. Some guy will come and argue with me, tell me I could get a job, be a Walmart greeter. But what do I do when I pass out?”

Although he speaks openly about his situation during the interview, he does not want to have his photo taken. And not because he’s shy.

“I want all homeless people treated well, not just me. We all had lives… I want them to wonder who it is. It could be that guy on the corner.”

“Everybody who’s homeless, they’re in a different situation but they are all great people. They’d give you the shirt off their back.”

He concedes that some homeless people are bad and are criminals “and they make it bad for all of us.”

But not the majority.

“Think about who we were, not who we are. At one point we had good lives.”

And he has a reminder for people who believe it could never happen to them.

“Everybody is just a cheque or two away from being homeless.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

There are currently 15 Kid’s Don’t Float PFD loaner stations located throughout the Shuswap, with three more planned to go up this year. (Shuswap Watershed Council image)
New life-jacket stations planned for Enderby, Eagle Bay

National Lifejacket Day prompts reminder to boaters that accidents can happen

A formerly occupied bird box at the Salmon Arm Foreshore lies broken and empty on May 14, 2021 after someone pulled the pole holding it out of the ground and smashed the box on the ground. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Destruction of nests, birds at Salmon Arm foreshore described as horrifying

More than 30 bird boxes made by community destroyed, just one was not occupied

Armstrong Regional Co-op board members Brett Kirkpatrick (left) and Robbie Hoyte (right) flank Scott John of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society. The co-op donated $2,500 to the society for its Save the Towne Theatre campaign. (ARC photo)
North Okanagan-Shuswap cooperative contributes to Vernon theatre campaign

Armstrong Regional Co-op kicks in $2,500 for Okanagan Screen Arts Society’s Save the Towne Theatre campaign

Sicamous RCMP Sgt. Murray McNeil and Cpl. Wade Fisher present Cody Krabbendam of Ranchero with an award for bravery on July 22, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy receives medal of bravery, scholarship for rescue at Sicamous beach

Last summer Cody Krabbendam jumped into the lake to save another boy from drowning

A young Sicamous Canada Day parade-goer is awed by a colourful float filled with beloved Disney characters during the July 1, 2020 community event. (File photo)
Editorial: Now is the time for Sicamous to shine

Shuswap community might be just what people who work from home are looking for

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

File photo (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Overturned kayak in Kelowna creek prompts police response

Kelowna RCMP is looking to speak with anyone who may know the individual associated with the kayak

Penticton city parks staff were busy this week using the beach grater to sift through sand, getting the shores ready for beach season. When it comes to beach clean up they are collecting run-off debris, pulling weeds and picking up litter. (Penticton photo)
Hottest day of the year, so far, in the South Okanagan

Penticton city park staff cleaned up the beaches getting ready for the season

This is what the glowing boulders look like at night at 28 Huth Ave. (Submitted)
PHOTOS: Glowing boulders popping up in the Okanagan

Local landscaper Brandon Messier also brought the Lost statue to its new home

Coldstream Fire Department is on-scene Sunday, May 16, battling a fire in a Matner Lane orchard just up the hill from the firehall on Aberdeen Road. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Okanagan fire crew tackles orchard blaze

Fire broke out just before 2 p.m. on Matner Lane, which is just up the hill from the Coldstream firehall on Aberdeen Road

A drug bust on Government Street in Duncan on Tuesday, March 30, led to a "substantial seizure" according to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. (File photo)
Search continues for diver who went missing in Okanagan Lake

Emergency crews continue to search for the 52-year-old who didn’t resurface Saturday

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Poached trees that were taken recently on Vancouver Island in the Mount Prevost area near Cowichan, B.C. are shown on Sunday, May 10, 2021. Big trees, small trees, dead trees, softwoods and hardwoods have all become valuable targets of tree poachers in British Columbia as timber prices hit record levels. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne.
Tree poaching from public forests increasing in B.C. as lumber hits record prices

Prices for B.C. softwood lumber reached $1,600 for 1,000 board feet compared with about $300 a year ago

Most Read