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

West Kelowna to stick with regional transportation planning

City council votes to rescind its move to leave regional planning body

Vernon at centre of rail trails convergence

More local development input sought for Okanagan and North Okanagan/Shuswap rail trails

Keeping pets safe at Christmas

This time of year presents a lot of possible health hazards for our pets

UBCO researchers find link between methane and Amazon rainforest

It turns out that trees in the Amazonian floodplain act as “chimneys,” according to a researcher

Kelowna Gospel Mission creates more meals with new slicer

The slicer was donated by the Morningside Rotary Club

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Flag person’s death shines light on dangers

Company calls for more awareness of and respect for flaggers

Rockets fall in Swift Current for third straight loss

The Broncos score the game’s first five goals in Kelowna’s fourth game of six-game eastern trip

Star gazing: Mars – the Red Planet

Mars is part of our culture, currently of extreme scientific interest, and sufficiently like Earth

Kelowna auto dealer revs up KGH building project with big donation

Kelowna Toyota has donated $30,000 to help build JoeAnna’s House on hospital grounds

More than 20,000 pounds of garbage removed from riverside homeless camps

Two camps taken down last week on the banks of the Fraser and Chilliwack rivers

Suspect in Revelstoke standoff killed himself: RCMP

Mohammadali Darabi, suspect in the Calgary homicide of his roommate, was stopped in Revelstoke

Clinton visits Vancouver, applauds Trudeau, celebrates Democrats’ win in Alabama

Clinton told crowd she cheered when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet.

VIDEO: Salt Spring Islanders ferry piano to their floating home

Everyone enjoys a little music on the water, but not everyone has a piano on their boat

Most Read