Homeless South Okanagan man allegedly doused in ice water while he slept

Community outraged at treatment of well-known homeless community member

A community is outraged after a homeless Osoyoos man was allegedly doused with ice water while he was sleeping on the evening of March 20.

Elaine Taylor, an Osoyoos resident and representative of the United Church Thrift Shop, posted on social media the morning of March 21 that Vince, a well-known homeless man in the community, showed up at the thrift store “shaking from head to toe.”

“He came in at about 8 a.m., and it just so happened that I had come in really early yesterday morning and had opened up and he walked in the door and I just couldn’t believe it,” said Taylor. “He was just shaking, he was just so, so cold. And he just kept on repeating over and over again ‘They dumped ice water on me. They dumped ice water on me.’ and that part was very sad. I just felt so sad for him.

“And he just absolutely loves this town. He doesn’t do anything in this town to anyone. He’s kind to everyone, he doesn’t hurt a fly.”

READ ALSO: Nowhere to grieve: How homeless people deal with loss during the opioid crisis

Taylor said the temperature the evening before got down to roughly -4 C so she couldn’t “imagine how cold he must have been” and didn’t know how long he had been in the elements, soaking wet and shaking.

Vince told Taylor the incident occurred while he was sleeping, but he didn’t specify where or what time it took place. She said she helped warm him up and gave him new clothing and money to go get breakfast.

“As he left he turned around and said … God bless all of you and isn’t Osoyoos the kindest place ever,” Taylor wrote on social media, which has garnered hundreds of reactions and comments.

Taylor said she’s been in the community for 40 years and knows Vince has been in the area for at least that long. Businesses and members of the Osoyoos community will frequently help Vince with clothing or food donations but Taylor said “he prefers to live on the street” and has refused help in the past to provide him housing.

“He prefers to be on the street. Many, many, many people over the years have tried to help him out by giving him food and lodging and clothes and everything. Everyone in the community just kind of looks after him,” said Taylor. “But he prefers to be outdoors, he does not like to be in a place. He’s on his own and he’s independent. And everybody in town knows him.”

According to Taylor, businesses such as Smitty’s will even sometimes provide Vince with breakfast. She said he makes money by collecting cans and bottles from people in the area.

Taylor called the Osoyoos RCMP detachment on March 22 to report the incident, and found that they had already been alerted to the situation.

READ ALSO: B.C. A&W helps keep homeless people warm

“The lady said ‘Oh I’m pretty sure I know why you’re calling.’ and I said ‘Oh, yeah’ and she said ‘You have no idea how many phone calls we’ve had’ and people are just outraged by what happened to Vince,” said Taylor.

According to Cpl. Dave Smith with the Osoyoos RCMP, a file has been created to look into the incident but they have yet to track down where Vince is. He said Vince may have trouble recalling where or when he was allegedly doused with water, which may be a hurdle in the investigation.

“We’re in the infancy of the investigation. Vince can be difficult to find on occasion but we are looking to speak with him and see what he recalls of that incident,” said Smith. “Even if he can give us a more accurrate location and whether or not he knew the people who did this to him.”

“He doesn’t really know too much about what happened yesterday. I think he was so shocked by it that he just didn’t know,” said Taylor, recalling his confusion when she was providing him new, warm clothes at the thrift shop. “He didn’t know very much about who it was. He said to me ‘I think they’ – which indicated to me that it was more than one person – ‘had a hoodie on, so I couldn’t see them.’”

Smith said depending on the situation, a person dumping ice water on an individual could result in assault charges. He said it is hard to speculate, though, until they have all the information of what happened.

“Depending on the circumstances, someone could face an assault charge for something like that,” said Smith. “We don’t know the circumstances. For example, people do have the right to defend their property in certain circumstances. But if a vulnerable member of our community is sleeping outdoor in a vestibule or an entrance to a business, we certainly wouldn’t expect that to be the outcome.”

Smith said anyone with information about this incident can contact the Osoyoos RCMP detachment. In the meantime, officers will continue to search for Vince to take his statement and check on his wellbeing.

“At the face of it, (this situation) is not something that sounds justified,” said Smith.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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