Michaels: Low income B.C. residents need out of a jam

“People look at us like we’re drug addicts and wonder, ‘how can you be so poor?’” he said.

“Poverty isn’t a lack of money, it’s a condition that once you’re in, it’s almost impossible to get out of,” said Kerry Flynn, Thursday morning when I was interviewing him for my latest update on the residents who lost their homes in the Walnut Grove Motel fire and their fruitless efforts to find new housing.

There’s a general rule in writing that you shouldn’t start stories with quotes, but that has been running through my head for the last few hours because of how much it resonates.

Flynn lives at the Walnut Grove motel and it’s an oasis of affordability in an otherwise exclusive rental market.

While he appreciates his address and the stability he’s found there, he’s well aware of the scrutiny he faces for it.

“People look at us like we’re drug addicts and wonder, ‘how can you be so poor?’” he said.

“There are a lot of things that happen to people that let you end up in poverty. There should be a place in society to allow poor people to live.”

Flynn used to have a business, a wife and a house he owned, but all those things drifted away.

First went the marriage, and with it half the home. Then came health issues.

“I have Crohn’s disease and had to have a surgery, then when I was recovering, I had another doctor tell me I had cancer,” he said.

Flynn took one hit after the other, and moved to Kelowna to be close to family for what he thought would be his final days. Even 10 years ago it was hard finding a rental, especially as a pet owner.

He went to a number of places, and at the end of the list was the Walnut Grove.

He met the owner and was welcome to move in with his cat.

It’s while living there he learned from a new doctor he would be allotted more treatments in B.C. and he lived.

His new lease on life, however, came with its pitfalls.

“When my socioeconomic situation changed significantly people disappeared from my life,” he said. “I think if people look at it the way it happened and thought, ‘Gee, that could happen to me’ that’s too terrifying to them. If they can blame you for being in your condition, and it’s your fault somehow, then they feel safer.”

But, he pointed out a statistic often repeated at social agency meetings, most people are just a few pay cheques away from poverty.

“I used to pay $50,000 a year in taxes, and now I have people who make $50,000 a year look down their nose at me,” he said. “That bothers me.”

Flynn’s candor is remarkable, but sadly his story isn’t.

Poor people in this province are screwed. It’s not just a Kelowna problem.

This story can be heard in just about every well-populated city in B.C. and it’s shameful.

There’s loads of finger-pointing that can and has been done over the years.

B.C.’s provincial government, for example, once said it didn’t need an official plan to reduce poverty, focusing its efforts instead on job creation. It didn’t matter whether those jobs weren’t full time or if they didn’t pay a livable wage.

In the run-up to the election, the NDP said, if elected, it would boost wages, adopt $10-a-day child care, and create a poverty reduction plan.

“We are the only province that doesn’t have (a plan) and it strikes me that any business, any not-for-profit, any family usually tries to put in place a plan if they want to get out of a jam—and we’re in a jam right now,” said NDP leader John Horgan, was quoted saying.

Flynn and the residents of Walnut Grove are in a real jam.

Let’s hope that new premier of this province remembers his pre-election schtick and turns his attention toward the issues at hand before more people are mired in a situation that they can’t see an end to.

Just Posted

Youth athletes get $22k from Kelowna builder

Mission Group supports a group of ten elite cyclists and triathletes from around Kelowna

Another Liberal leadership hopeful visits Kelowna West

Dianne Watts will be in West Kelowna Saturday to support Liberal byelection candidate Ben Stewart

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

Kelowna city council approves bike-share program

The year-round program will feature bikes accessible through a smartphone app

Consultant puts Kelowna homeless count close to 2,000

The true number is much higher than previously reported in a snapshot survey

Your Jan. 23 Morning Brief

Check out the top stories of the day in the Okanagan-Shuswap with Carmen Weld’s Black Press Morning Brief.

Man faces 48 charges in string of random Toronto shootings

The string of unprovoked shootings began Jan.9, say police

Slayer adds Penticton to North American tour

Slayer adds the South Okanagan Events Centre as a stop on their last tour

‘Shape of Water’ producer, Christopher Plummer among Canadian Oscar nominees

Guillermo del Toro film about merman romance earns 13 nominations

Vancouver Canucks confirm participation in NHL Young Stars

Canucks confirmed participation, at least for this year, in the NHL Young Stars event in Penticton

Canada, TPP agrees to revised deal without the United States

Canada and the remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed to a revised trade agreement

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Rogers Media cuts ties with Vice Canada

Rogers Media and Vice Canada are ending their three-year-old partnership, pulling Viceland TV channel off the air

Snowfall warnings for mountain passes

Lots of snow expected to fall today.

Most Read