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Come in from the cold: Okanagan and Kamloops people open homes to others in need

Kristian Schram (left) met Michael Lindstrom thanks to a Facebook post where Lindstrom invited those without a home to warm up in his garage.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Michael Lindstrom
January 20, 2020 - 6:00 AM

With the bitter cold that hit B.C. Interior cities, shelters amped up their services and some residents even offered their homes to people who needed to get warm.

In Kamloops and Kelowna, posts on local Facebook pages offered warm places out of the cold.

In Kelowna, Micheal Lindstrom offered up his garage as a space for people to come and warm up. He mentioned that he wouldn’t be offering food or phone usage, but he made lunch and shared his phone with his new friend Kristian Schram.

“We’re doing lunch… we’re just eating at the house, made some chicken and rice and stuff,” Schram says.

Schram is one of the many people who have been affected by the cold snap and has spent some of the cold nights at the Cornerstone shelter in downtown Kelowna. He says he is living on the streets of West Kelowna while between houses and found Lindstrom’s offer to be a perfect fit.

“It certainly isn’t something that happens every day, it’s really uplifting and really motivating,” Schram says. “I really haven’t experienced this before… it definitely is a new experience.”

This is a first for Lindstrom, too. He says he was frustrated by the lack of churches in the city opening their doors during the cold snap and figured he had to do something himself.

“I only opened my garage because I was pissed off that the ones who have the space and resources to offer basic warmth refused to unlock their doors,” Lindstrom says.

“Honestly, who digs in their heels and does that? I didn’t know if I should be angry, sad, or just vomit. Instead, I didn’t do any of those things, I just simply opened my garage for nothing more than basic warmth.”

Lindstrom says a few people have contacted him every day since the social media post, although many have found a more convenient shelter before getting to him. Schram is the first person he’s taken in and he allowed him to stay in the warm garage Thursday night, Jan. 16, and expects him to stay Friday night as well.

He acknowledges the dangers from such an offer: potential eviction, strata fines, loss of property and bodily harm. He says he couldn't live with himself knowing someone died from exposure while he had a warm space to offer.

“Homeless or not, when a stranger is in your home it’s kind of like a box of chocolates,” Lindstrom says. “I have had far more good experiences than negative. We must never forget these are fellow human beings.”

Another person also well aware of the dangers but willing to take the risk is Kamloops mom Michelle Ens, who offered people the opportunity to come inside and watch a movie to warm up.

“Sometimes people get burned, but I’d rather offer someone a helping hand and be burned than not offer that helping hand and have someone be outside and end up dying,” Ens says.

Ens faced some comments on her social media post from people who were worried about her safety and the safety of her children, which didn’t faze her.

She says her mom used to take in travellers who didn’t have a place to stay, and she herself has volunteered with the street entrenched populations in Edmonton and Kamloops and hasn’t had any bad experiences.

“I didn’t really have any concerns about it, but obviously I thought about it,” Ens says. “A lot of people were thinking it had something to do with being naive or me not taking it into consideration, but I’m not naive. I’ve worked with down and out populations before… if I’m not comfortable with how something is going, I’ll put an end to it.”

Ens says that although Kamloops is one of the most generous cities, she believes most residents prefer to offer their wallet as their main method of altruism.

“They’re really generous money-wise and with donations, but I don’t find that there’s a lot of help person to person… there’s not a lot of people who would take people into their home.”

So far, Ens has not had anyone respond to her offer.

Lindstrom and Ens aren’t the only ones who open their homes to the homeless.

In another act of kindness, this winter season a Penticton woman offered Christmas dinner to people who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

Despite public concern, she said not a single negative incident happened during the night where she fed 53 people.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler 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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