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Kamloops woman frustrated after finding homeless man freezing overnight

Image Credit: Shutterstock

It was 3 a.m. on Sunday when Bonnie Jackson went to the bathroom and happened to look out the window onto the dark Kamloops street and saw something that shocked her.

A young man, who was not dressed for the cold, was huddled outside near a garbage bin on the North Shore. It was -20 Celsius outside.

“He walked across an alley to warm up on what looked like a heating vent on the side of a building,” Jackson said. “I know this steam quickly freezes once he leaves it.”

Fearing for his safety, she grabbed a few warm items and some cash and ran to a second-floor patio calling out to him and asking him not to leave.

“When he came over to me, I saw that he was a young man, teen likely, very poorly dressed,” she said. “He took all the warmish things I had to give him and the money and over and over said, 'God bless you, God bless you.'”

READ MORE: Cold weather creates headaches at Kamloops facilities

The man was kind and considerate and she was shocked at how young he looked. She said the weather was "brutally cold” and she started to cry.

“I said ‘I’m so sorry this is happening to you’ and he answered ‘please don’t cry, please don’t cry, I’ll be OK.' But it wasn't OK, he was freezing out there." 

It was during the deep freeze that hit Kamloops, Jan. 14. She went to back to bed worrying for the safety of the man.

Several people have died in the cold in the city over the past few years. Most recently a well-known homeless woman in Kamloops was found dead under a tarp in sub-zero temperatures on the North Shore.

READ MORE: Burst pipe floods vacant BC Housing apartment building in Kamloops

Renee Stein with the Out of the Cold shelter said she's seeing more of her regular clients with bronchitis and pneumonia this winter, while The Loops shelter operator Glenn Hilke said he’s seeing clients with frostbite and swollen hands since the temperature plummeted.

Jackson wants to know what she could have done for the young man that frigid night and who she could have phoned for help.

“What I did didn’t solve his problem, it was a band-aid solution, we need to do better,” she said.

Hilke works everyday with homeless people in crisis and said the first thing to do is to phone the Integrated Crisis Response Team to do a wellness checkup on the struggling person.

These teams cover the Central Okanagan and Kamloops area and are composed of RCMP officers and mental health nurses working together to respond to mental health and addictions crisis that don’t require police involvement.

The response teams de-escalate situations and connect people to community supports.

The service is available through the RCMP non-emergency line from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 250-828-3000 in the Thompson-Nicola region, and at 250-762-3300 in the Central Okanagan which includes the Mobile Integrated Crisis Response team in Vernon.  The Penticton Community Crisis Response Team is available every day from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and can be reached by calling the hospital at 250-492-4000.

If the crisis response teams are not available, the concerned public can call their local bylaw services. In Kamloops, response teams with community service officers and outreach offices are available from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week at 250-828-3409. Vernon’s Bylaw Compliance Services are available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday with an on-duty officer answering calls until 10 p.m. at 250-550-3505.

Kelowna Bylaw Services can be reached at 250-469-8686, while in Penticton bylaw enforcement officers are on duty from 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. every day while community safety officers are available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day at  250-490-2440.

Another option in Kamloops is the Envision outreach team with the Canadian Mental Health Authority that operates a shuttle to transport those in need to shelter spaces. In the winter months the team is available from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Find more information and contact numbers here.

That still leaves some hours of the night without extra community support services for the public to phone. 

In an email to, Kamloops RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Evelyn Crystal said if someone is concerned about a medical emergency, such as hypothermia, they should contact 911.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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