Chris Gee scouts out evidence of makeshift shelters close to the law courts and Terrace Sportsplex.

Homeless face tough conditions in Terrace woods

Local resident Chris Gee shines spotlight on the conditions faced by the rising number of homeless people in town

Chris Gee stands with a homeless friend in the woods between the Terrace law courts and the Terrace Sportsplex.

The friend, who prefers not to be photographed or identified, met Gee at the now-closed Skeena Bicycle Service a couple years ago when Gee helped him get a second hand bike fixed up.

They came together on a cold, wet mid-September morning to talk about the health and safety of the homeless population in Terrace.

The friend points into the woods, groves of bushes and grass that most people wouldn’t pay much attention to, where wet garbage and remains of campfires become visible.

And within this array, soggy tents where the homeless sleep.

Just a day earlier, the man and his homeless friends were told by a City of Terrace staff member driving a city truck to vacate a spot over on Lazelle Ave. where they had tents set up.

“We were up there for a month and they came over yesterday morning at around eight. And they said ‘you guys have until 2 o’clock to get your stuff out of here, otherwise we are going to throw it in the garbage’.”

Gee, an instructor at Northwest Community College, has a problem with people in his community living in squalor because of a lack of social housing and shelter space.

As an avid cyclist, Gee cruises Terrace Mountain trails regularly and is always saddened to see garbage, used needles and to witness the violence that happens so close to institutions of civic stability on Kalum St.

“All I thought, was, this is the health unit right there, the courthouse is right there, those are two bastions of health and well-being in society, or they are meant to be,” Gee reflected.

“But on the very same block there are people suffering from deep addiction. There is violence that happens in here, and there are people who are suffering, right in the same block.”

Life in the wet woods is not fun for Gee’s friend who, like many others, has recurring substance problems and deep psychological trauma that dogs him every day.

He says $30,000 from a federal residential school compensation program didn’t last long.

“It’s tough. When I’m laying in the bush soaking wet, I sometimes want to give up. That hurts,” he said.

The man’s’ sense of humour, good spirit and intelligence keeps him hopeful of finding a home and job, but he says the majority of those he knows in the woods will never be rehabilitated.

What they need are humane conditions to continue living, however marginalized they might be.

“Out of all the guys I know who are homeless, there are only a couple of us who are wanting to work and find a place. The rest don’t care, sad to say,” he says.

The Ksan Society’s year-round shelter is of little help to those in the thralls of addiction. “You have one drink of beer and they will kick you out,” says the man.

Even a place to keep his clothes would help. Out in the bush his clothes are always being stolen.

The homeless problem has not gone completely unnoticed with city council, who recently decided to form a task group to find solutions to the rising homeless population, which was estimated to be 74 earlier this year.

Part of the group’s mandate will be to make sure that communication happens between various community groups and also that there is enough room in emergency shelters this winter. General safety will also be discussed.

Gee’s friend says an emergency shelter for the colder months of the year doesn’t open early enough.

“I keep hearing talk of a wet shelter for alcoholics, but they won’t open it up until it’s zero, and I mean it’s cold right here, it’s soaking wet. I know so many people right now crashed out in makeshift little gazebos that aren’t really even tents.”

The burning down of two abandoned buildings in August that were used by the homeless has compounded the problem.

“It was a big loss, because it was dry place to stay, a warm place, ten of us could go sleep in there but now we are finding it hard to find a place to sleep,” said the man of one of the abandoned locations that burned down on Park Ave.

As a severe addict in a town with no detox or rehab centre, he relies on the Terrace and District Community Services Society for counseling to get off the streets, a service which he says frequently requires booking almost two months in advance.

“You just fall into a deeper drunk,” he lamented.

 

 

Just Posted

Freezing rain warning in effect for Terrace

Environment Canada has issued an alert

Caledonia Secondary School students recognized with broadcast award

Media arts class partnered with CTFK TV, RCMP to air PSA video campaign

Chevron’s move to exit Kitimat LNG project a dash of ‘cold water’ for gas industry

Canada Energy Regulator approved a 40-year licence to export natural gas for Kitimat LNG

City to see eight per cent tax hike in 2020

Budget draft to be presented at City Hall Dec. 17

Boil water notice in effect for Kitsumkalum

Waterline was hit during test drilling Dec. 10

‘A loud sonic boom’: Gabriola Island residents recount fatal plane crash

Area where the plane went down is primarily a residential neighbourhood, RCMP say

Process to identify those killed in Gabriola plane crash could take days

Canadian flight museum suggests Alex Bahlsen of Mill Bay died in Tuesday’s crash

‘Honest mistake:’ RCMP says B.C. cannabis shop can keep image of infamous Mountie

Sam Steele wearing military, not RCMP uniform in image depicted in Jimmy’s Cannabis window

B.C. conservation officers put down fawn blinded by BB gun on Vancouver Island

Young deer found near construction site in Hammond Bay area in Nanaimo, B.C.

Laid-off forest workers converge on B.C. legislature

Loggers call for action on strike, provincial stumpage

B.C. guide fined $2K in first conviction under new federal whale protection laws

Scott Babcock found guilty of approaching a North Pacific humpback whale at less than 100 metres

Feds urge Air Canada to fix booking problems as travel season approaches

The airline introduced the new reservation system more than three weeks ago

Almost 14,000 Canadians killed by opioids since 2016: new national study

17,000 people have been hospitalized for opioid-related poisoning

B.C. cities top the list for most generous in Canada on GoFundMe

Chilliwack took the number-two spot while Kamloops was at the top of the list

Most Read