Vance Deakin says he needs a hand up, not a hand out.
The Kelowna man broke his shoulder blade, hit his head and cracked a few ribs falling off a roof while cleaning gutters in Penticton last November. He went through a physiotherapy program, and once it was complete his employer laid him off.
He hasn’t found long-term work since and is now homeless and living in his car.
The car is an older model Chevrolet that shows the marks of time, but Deakin keeps it tidy. There’s a blanket on the back seat and a small fan set up on its ceiling to keep his dogs, G and BG, cool. These constant companions are nothing less than family to Deakin.
They’re also part of the reason he’s found himself in a rut.
“(I’ve) got no friends, family, anything here. I’ve got one friend but she lives in an apartment building but she has a cat and it’s no dogs allowed,” he said.
He said trying to find a place in Kelowna that allows dogs has been “frustrating.”
“No one wants to rent with dogs. I don’t know why but they’ll take a cat,” he said.
At another job he held down briefly, he tied the dogs up in the parking lot and left them with food and water. But after receiving complaints about the animals he was fired.
“I’ve reached out to vets, the SPCA, all the churches. Even just to tie them up, leave the dogs with water and there you go,” he said.
The dogs are his best friends, so he can’t give them away.
“G is a birthday present from my girlfriend who died two days after Christmas and she’s almost 15,” he said.
“BG was a runt of the runts, and she was all beat up and crying and I had to take her.”
Deakin related them to having a child.
“I can’t just say, ‘oh my situation is not good enough for you and give you up for adoption.’”
After being laid off, he tried to go on disability but was rejected. When he tried a second time he was told to apply for welfare.
Deakin received some money from WorkSafeBC, but after months of searching for a job he has $15 left.
“The social assistance is really what gets my nerves… they said apply for welfare so at least you have something. To a guy who’s been employed … I’m physically capable,” he said.
Deakin is still searching for work, but he’s losing hope.
“I can’t believe no one in the community would say ‘here’s a backyard, tie up the dogs and go to work,’” he said.
“I put my car online to try and trade it for a motorhome.”
A general handyman, Deakin said he’s done roofing previously in Kamloops and finds what he can for work around the Okanagan.
According to director of Emergency Services at the Kelowna Gospel Mission Carl Heimitz, Deakin’s story is uncommon, but not unheard of.
The Gospel Mission also has a place where people can put their pets.
“People do have dogs, mostly in the summers, more. But if they have a car and travel it’s more common, but that’s a small percentage (of homeless who have animals,)” said Heimitz.
Most of the people who visit the charity have lost a home, they’re transient or they’re disable and very few have a car, he said.
Having pets also makes it harder to find a place in Kelowna, said Heimitz.
They’re all in need of housing. If you have a pet it makes it harder. There’s not much out there for people with pets.”
He said the Gospel Mission has long waiting lists for affordable housing.