August 21, 2013 - 8:30 AM
VERNON - A local men's shelter is anxiously wondering if a man found dead in Polson Park last week was someone they knew.
It's looking likely that the man found in a forested area of the park was homeless and he might have used the services of the local John Howard Society, says executive director Barb Levesque.
"It's always very sad when we become aware that this is how the lives of the people we serve can come to an end. So alone," she says. "In a society that is so connected, it's ironic that someone can die alone."
Little is known about the man. His body was partially decomposed, there perhaps weeks before it was found, police said. All police know is that foul play was not involved. No ID, no fingerprints. Not even teeth to match dental records.
"A lot of the guys that come in don't have any teeth," Levesque says. "Crack cocaine addicts often have dentures at 25, so we can't assume it was an older man."
We can't assume the man was homeless, either. Police won't speculate on that but they've certainly looked there.
"Our officers have been to eight different agencies, including the John Howard Society and the Mission, doing follow-ups in relation to this incident," spokesperson Gord Molendyk says.
Police have narrowed the search down to one individual, but DNA testing will tell for sure. For that, they might need a relative's DNA to compare it with, and Levesque says it can be tough reaching family members, if there are any.
"We have a lot of transient people coming through town," Levesque says. "He could have been passing through or hitchhiking. He could have been a migrant worker."
For families with relatives known to live on the street, news of an unidentified body leaves a difficult and emotional job to do, Levesque says.
"It's very sad. There have been parents that called us after it happened to ask if we've seen their son," Levesque says. "It's really difficult for someone to call and say, I think that body is my brother's. It could take a long time. A person living on the street might not call for six months anyway. Maybe he always calls at Christmas. The family might not realize until then."
With the story making provincial headlines, Levesque hopes those who haven't seen or heard from their loved one in a long time will ask themselves that hard question and make that painful phone call. Not knowing could be even worse.
"If someone knows they have a family member who is a client of ours, and they haven't seen or heard from them in a while, to contact us or the police," Levesque says. "Even just to put their mind at ease."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013