Tents are being dismantled, tarps and makeshift fencing taken down, blankets stuffed into garbage bags.
It’s -15 C, so along with struggling with their belongings, people are fighting to keep warm.
It is moving week for those who camp across the Trans-Canada Highway from DeMille’s Farm Market at the west end of Salmon Arm.
Staff Sgt. Scott West of the Salmon Arm RCMP confirmed Tuesday, Feb. 5 that officers went to the site on Jan. 29 and 30 to inform people there that they were on the right-of-way for the four-lane highway project.
The visit “was to give these persons advance notice that Ministry of Transportation contractors will begin work there this week so they may move their tents,” West said.
A ministry spokesperson stated in a Feb. 6 email that the preload portion of work is getting underway this week, and it is no longer safe for the campers.
“While no official notice was given to the campers by the ministry, our staff did contact the RCMP, who spoke with the campers about this matter.”
A few volunteers were helping with the move Tuesday, among them Chrissy Deye and Dan Sallis with the Crossroads Free Methodist Church. Deye says seven people in total are now being housed in four rooms at the Travelodge, and the church has been fundraising for propane and heaters for those still living in tents in this cold snap. Volunteers have also been providing meals.
She speaks passionately about how much she cares for these people and how they deserve better.
“It’s so mercilessly cold right now for these guys.”
The homeless shelter, for one reason or another, is not a fit for everyone.
Sallis has experienced homelessness firsthand, so understands what people are going through.
“I made some poor decisions and ended up paying the price,” he says, which left him homeless for a few months in the summer.
He began volunteering with the church, cooking for the Sonlight Kitchen. He says they regularly serve 80 plates on Tuesdays, a number which Deye says rose to 167 the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
From cooking at the church, positive things snowballed for him, and he was able to get a steady job and a place to live.
“If you see four homeless people, there are 100 you don’t see,” he contends, pointing out how completely unreachable housing prices are for so many people.
He also understands why addictions can take hold.
“You wake up thinking you’re garbage,” so drugs or alcohol can provide relief. “Some of these people have done it (being without a home) for four years, seven years, and it’s so crushing. My heart definitely bleeds for the human condition,” he says.
“Things like safety, warmth – these are things every human should have.”
Sallis stresses that people who are homeless have to be part of the solution. Although giving them money helps, they need a long-term remedy.
“If there was a place that could offer housing and work. Say, a motel, where they could work and stay…,” he says, providing a gradual entry into a new life. “It’s got to be small steps.”
Sallis and Chrissy Deye have brought a truck to help people move their belongings.
Sandy Bunting is dismantling a tent structure where she stays sometimes, while Nicole Salter and Craig Lagore are taking down what has been their home for six months. They have been together for five years but have seen hard times and have never been able to keep a permanent home because of little money and high prices.
Salter says she would like to see a reality show feature people who are homeless.
“I would like to see other people go in our shoes.”
Lagore notes that people say, “Pull up your socks,” but it’s not that simple. For instance, an address is key to accessing many things necessary for a stable life.
Bunting says she does her best to help people who are down and out, making use of discarded foods for others and “binning” for supplies.
“There are a lot of good homeless people.”
She gives kudos to stores like Neptune Pools, Nufloors and Scrappy’s who provide access to wood, metal shelving, underlay and thick plastics.
“If it weren’t for them, we’d all be freezing.”
She says A&W is equally great, allowing people to sit inside in order to get warm.
Bunting’s voice catches when it’s noted it must be tough for people to be forced to leave a spot at this time of year.
“Yeah, they don’t know how cold it is.”
To contribute to those needing help during the cold weather, email Chrissy Deye at firstname.lastname@example.org.