Homeless man who died outside in Kamloops will be missed among street community | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Kamloops News

Homeless man who died outside in Kamloops will be missed among street community

A homeless Kamloops man, known on the streets as Sam Mack, died outside in early November.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

Kamloops lost a well-known homeless man this November, who was known on the streets as Sam Mack.

Mack, who was an amputee and used a wheelchair, died outside in early November. He could frequently be found on Victoria Street between the Thompson Nicola Regional Library and the Plaza Hotel, usually with his friends.

Lyn George knew Mack for less than a year, but she said in that short time, they grew close. She, like others who were close to him, fondly referred to Mack as Uncle Sam.

"I used to come down here at four in the morning just to see if he was okay, and I'd have to find him," said George, who lives at a downtown supportive housing facility. She would often sit along Victoria Street near the Plaza Hotel with Mack and others, where there was once a bench near a crosswalk.

People still sit in the same spot, near the crosswalk, but instead they sit, drink and smoke cigarettes on parking barriers.

Like the bench, Mack is no longer part of the group.

READ MORE: B.C. housing minister to meet with Kamloops city council

She spoke with Mack before he died and said she had a sense something was wrong.

"I kind of had a feeling like I knew he was sick. I knew he wasn't feeling well," George said.

Mack was a Canadian Mental Health Association client, according to Kamloops branch executive director Alfred Achoba.

Achoba told iNFOnews.ca that a CMHA client died outside in early November and it was believed to be because of exposure, but an investigation into the exact cause of his death is still ongoing. The B.C. Coroners Service confirmed that it is conducting an investigation into the death of a person found on Nov. 2, according to a spokesperson.

"The information we've received is very credible. We're not aware of anything else and that information is still current that the cause of death was hypothermia," Achoba said.

When outreach workers found his body, they discovered that Mack was not wearing clothes and he was not in his wheelchair. However, he does not believe that RCMP are continuing an investigation and there is no suspicion of criminality.

While Achoba would not confirm the identity of the senior who used a wheelchair and died outside, multiple people within the homeless community confirmed it to be Mack. Those who knew him also said that while he was known as "Uncle Sam" or "Sam Mack" on the street, they could not confirm his actual name.

George said that in memorial for Mack, his shoes now hang from a telephone line above the Victoria Street parking lot where he would frequent. 

Mack's friends said his shoes now hang in a row of others on this telephone line near the Plaza Hotel in downtown Kamloops.
Mack's friends said his shoes now hang in a row of others on this telephone line near the Plaza Hotel in downtown Kamloops.

Mack was known to often avoid shelters, because he was more vulnerable to thefts.

Aside from the Victoria Street location, he would often be found at the Mustard Seed, roughly five blocks away, and he was well-known among the homeless population in Kamloops.

READ MORE: Senior dies amid homeless shelter shortage in Kamloops

He was also known to be difficult to deal with, but many, including his friends, say most within the homeless community would help him whenever he asked.

"He was an asshole, but he was my kind of asshole," Dwayne Furuseth said. "He would give you the shirt off your back if you needed it, and I've watched him do that."

Furuseth, who is commonly known as "Irish", looks back fondly on his time with Mack, whom he knew for nearly three years.

"He was a smart guy, but he got sold a short deal with losing his leg and stuff," Furuseth said. "He started using opiates and really started drinking when he lost his leg. But he never lost that spirit of his. He was always such a good... guy, and if I could communicate anything about him, it's that he was a good man."

While Furuseth and George considered themselves friends of Mack who would often spend time with him in downtown Kamloops, Mack was known widely among the homeless community.

READ MORE: 'No words' describe unprecedented Okanagan animal shelter support through Betty White Challenge

"At first I didn't like him because he can be quite off-putting at first, but once you get to know him, he's a very gentle person," well-known volunteer street cleaner, Ben James, said.

James, who can often be found picking up garbage downtown, said the moment he and Mack "broke bread" was when they crossed paths downtown and a sudden gust of wind blew Mack's hat off his head. James recognized that Mack, being in a wheelchair, would have a difficult time retrieving his hat, and they were friendly after that small act.

James said the homeless community is generally tight-knit in Kamloops, and he would push Mack around in his wheelchair whenever he needed the help.

"Eventually they all die out in the cold," James said. "He died alone in the cold, like so many others have died alone in the cold because the city is doing an abysmal job."

The latest Point in Time in Kamloops estimated 206 people to be living without permanent shelter, but those are often considered to be undercounts, partly because they are optional. While it surveys the number of people counted within shelters, there is a chance the surveyors can miss some people living among the city, who could be couch-surfing or out in the street but were not contacted for the count.

The survey portion of the Point in Time count is also optional.

For those 206 people that are homeless in Kamloops, there are 153 total shelter beds available in the city. While some may choose not to sleep in shelters even if they are available, a December cold snap pushed the capacity of those shelter spaces across the city.

Shelter providers, including Canadian Mental Health Association, laid down mats to accommodate the need. The Loop, at 405A Tranquille Road, also expanded their services temporarily in order to make space for people who were trying to avoid sleeping outside when temperatures dropped below -20C, bringing in more than 20 people on a single night when nights were at their coldest.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2022

  • Popular vernon News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile