Kathy Lynn gives her son Alex a hug. He has been living on the streets in Kelowna for a year. (Carli Berry/Capital News)

Life on the streets: Kelowna man looking for a way out of drug addiction and homelessness

“Why surround yourself in something you want to get away from?

Alex has been living on the streets for a year.

The 30-year-old uses drugs daily, something that started seven years ago when a punch to the face in a bar fight left him with a broken jaw.

He was prescribed painkillers and that was the tipping point to no return.

“It just gradually got worse as the sources became more tainted and strengthened with the harder drugs,” said Alex, who asked to remain anonymous.

“I always held down a steady job. I was working my ass off. One bad decision can seriously start a massive landslide.”

Now he lives on the street to avoid homeless shelters, which he said are unsafe and theft is common.

He sets up temporary shelters with his girlfriend in the rural areas of the Mission, as well as near Dilworth, at churches that will allow him to stay for a few days or places where people don’t generally go.

READ MORE: Formerly homeless poet shines light on Vernon’s street issues

And he stays as far away from downtown as possible.

“Why surround yourself in something you want to get away from?,” he said. “That’s why I’ve chosen to bear the cold and do the things I’ve done. (Bylaw officers), they’re just doing their job, but sometimes they’re quite rude and do things in a very inhumane manner.”

With addiction, it became increasingly difficult for him to hold down a job, he said. No one wants to hire an addict.

“I was put into a position where I literally had to turn everything around, which included dump the girlfriend, get off heroin, which you don’t do in a night. It’s a very long process, and if I did, I would have been allowed to stay (in a housing complex).”

Unable to fulfill the housing requirements, he became homeless. He’s said he tried kicking the addiction cold turkey, but was unsuccessful. He now uses daily, but would rather be clean.

“It’s very violent. You try to sleep and you thrash and you kick. You can overstretch your muscles to the point you feel like your bones are breaking,” he said.

His mother, Kathy Lynn, said he stayed at her place when temperatures dropped this winter, but her landlord didn’t approve.

“It’s basically stereotyping, thinking everyone is the same,” Alex said.

He said BC Housing’s facilities offering the homeless places to live and access to treatment are good initiatives, but he has concerns about the fact they are “wet” facilities where drug consumption is allowed on site.

“You’re not setting a guideline for the drug use,” he said. “I think they need to be a little more strict, to the point of, ‘yes, you obviously have this addiction and this problem, but have the freedom of just going and using.’ It’s almost as if the staff should be the drug dealers and have them (prescribe small amount of drugs.)”

If placed in a BC Housing complex run by the John Howard Society, he said it would be hard to stay clean.

While he still uses, Alex said he’s to the point where it’s not a massive expense if he could find a job or get social assistance.

READ MORE: Homeless tenters must move for four-laning preparation

His mother wrote a letter to the Capital News a few weeks ago in order to shed light on the stigma around homelessness.

“They treat them horribly, even though they’re doing nothing wrong,” she said.

She said family members have told her to walk away.

“I can’t do that. This is my son,” said Kathy Lynn.

Alex’s one piece of advice to the public is to be sympathetic, because that’s what people on the streets need.

“Keep your hands out, don’t stick your nose up to people. If somebody asks you for change, be polite. If you can or can’t do it, don’t roll your window up,” he said.

“We’re struggling. We don’t like what we look like. We don’t like what we’re doing. We know we’re disgusting. We’re not proud of it. I don’t think there’s a single homeless person on the street who you’ll ask that will say they’re proud of who they are.”

Sometimes, all homeless people need is someone to talk to, Alex said.

“People need to just take a minute and think about the situation. Just take a second (put your feet in those people’s shoes).“

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaNewsKat
kmichaels@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: ‘Stubborn’ fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

The building, which lit up in flames around 2 a.m., was an infamous spot to Big White locals

Warriors looking for Teddy, hoping for win

West Kelowna hosts their annual Teddy Bear Toss fundraiser Saturday night

Price for one-bedroom rentals in Kelowna jumped 10.8% from October to November

Out of 34 Canadian cities, report said Kelowna had highest monthly rent increase

Rockets drop second straight, conclude 6-game road trip Saturday in Moose Jaw

Kelowna fell short against the Regina Pats 4-3 Friday night

Province covers medical costs for Kelowna boy with spinal muscular atrophy

Spinal taps for Rumi Green’s spinal muscular atrophy treatment cost $120,000 each

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

Frosty will have to pay rent to stay on Okanagan sidewalk next Christmas

Vernon Teach and Learn allowed to keep Frosty up, but will need a permit come January 1

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Conservation officers on the hunt for North Okanagan moose poachers

Officers execute search warrant Friday morning, investigation continues

UPDATE: Highway 1 reopens after vehicle incident near Boston Bar

Initial reports of a jack-knifed semi truck had closed both directions of the highway

Kootnekoff: Accommodating religious celebrations

Employers must be mindful that not everyone celebrates holidays which are days off

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Most Read