Man who died in Kelowna homeless camp was trying to 'get back on the straight and narrow' - InfoNews

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Man who died in Kelowna homeless camp was trying to 'get back on the straight and narrow'

FILE PHOTO - Homeless people camping in tents in a ball diamond on Recreation Avenue in Kelowna's North End, Nov. 27, 2019.
December 16, 2019 - 4:30 PM

Today was supposed to be the start of a new life for a Kelowna man living in a tent in a City-sanctioned homeless campground on Recreation Avenue but he didn’t make it to see the dawn.

He died from an apparent drug overdose last night.

Shilo Ashbury is a volunteer who has been helping the homeless people cope with the cold and helping them take their tents down every morning. She’s spent a fair bit of time over the three-week life of the camp with the man. His name was Shane but his last name has not been released.

She picked him up from police cells yesterday, Dec. 15, where he’s forced to spend weekends while serving a sentence. She didn't know why he had to go to jail.

Shilo Ashbury is one of the volunteers at the Recreation Avenue homeless campsite. She was trying to help one of the campers get his life back together but he died of an apparent overdose.
Shilo Ashbury is one of the volunteers at the Recreation Avenue homeless campsite. She was trying to help one of the campers get his life back together but he died of an apparent overdose.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Shilo Ashbury

“We went and had some lunch, did some errands, had some good laughs,” Ashbury said. “We had a heart-to-heart. We were going to talk to his parole officer. I had talked to John Howard (Society) about what kind of work program we could get him set up with. He wanted out... we lost one of the good ones, a dad who just had a broken heart because he can’t see his kids."

What she knows of Shane’s background is that he came to Kelowna a couple of years ago, had a job and a place to live but also a failed marriage. He had been clean and sober for five years up until about six months ago when he was not able to access his children and was handed a restraining order. He fell apart after that, his roommate took off and he could no longer afford rent.

“He’s a ‘cope’ drug user,” Ashbury said about his descent back into drug use. “He’s not somebody who wants to be doing drugs but it’s a coping mechanism because he doesn’t know how to get out of the system. So that’s what our talk was about yesterday. To take our first step on how we were going to get him out. Get on the straight and narrow.”

From what she was told, someone in the camp walked by Shane’s tent at about 2:30 a.m. (he had his own tent and was not in the large warming tent where many others were sleeping). The young woman who found him called security to help pull him out and try to help him, even though he was turning blue by then.

She said there were no naloxone kits available and, by the time an ambulance arrived, it was too late.

Kelowna RCMP, in an email to iNFOnews.ca, said they responded to a call from Interior Health about 3:50 a.m. to identify a man transported from the camp who was pronounced dead in hospital. RCMP did not provide a name or suspected cause of death.

Ashbury argues the homeless need advocates to help them cope with a service system that, in her opinion, is not working. That’s what she was planning to help Shane with today.

“I’m in shock,” she said. “I’m seeing how many (homeless) people were down there and they still had to take their tents down in the snow while they’re traumatized because they’ve lost someone who was family."

“There’s a lot of emotional issues going down. They need proper supports. The fact that they’ve been left outside for this long now and one of their own family, one of the good ones, today - today was supposed to be the day we were freaking going to get him on the right path – he’s now dead.”


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