HOUSING CRISIS: Seniors living in Vernon campsite find housing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Vernon News

HOUSING CRISIS: Seniors living in Vernon campsite find housing

Standing in their barren apartment, Connie and Dave are very grateful to have found housing.

After weeks of braving the cold and discomfort of living in a tent, a senior couple from Vernon has now found housing.

The couple had resigned to the fact that they'd be living in a tent for the foreseeable future and had secured a cheaper campsite and were gearing up to buy a bigger tent.

Then they got a phone call that a one-bedroom apartment had become available in Enderby.

"We were very excited," Connie told iNFOnews.ca.

Now standing in their empty 600 square foot apartment, with the smell of fresh paint still in the air, the couple looks much happier and healthier than they did just a week before.

The first night of sleeping in a proper bed was a remarkable contrast from trying to keep warm in their tent.

"We slept more than we ever slept in the whole week in the campground," Dave said. "We slept half that next day. I'm not one to sleep in, but I've done a lot of sleeping since we've been here."

One week earlier Dave, 74 and his wife Connie, 64, were living in a tent at a Vernon campsite, unable to find housing.

READ MORE: HOUSING CRISIS: Senior couple forced to live in tent at Vernon campsite

iNFOnews.ca has agreed not to use Dave and Connie's last name. The couple says they are embarrassed about their situation and don't want friends and family to know.

Not long ago, the couple lived on Vancouver Island, but sold most of their stuff and gave up their rental apartment to move to Nova Scotia to be closer to family. They soon found that Nova Scotia also has a housing shortage and when things didn't work out they headed to Vernon where Connie's daughter lives.

The two lived and met in Vernon more than 20 years ago and didn't imagined they'd have trouble finding housing.

But the huge shortage of affordable rental property meant forced them to live in a tent.

For a couple who over time had owned multiple properties between them, it was a stark contrast to the life they used to live.

"You don't appreciate things until you don't have them," Dave said.

After weeks of sitting in their car to keep warm, they can now simply turn up the thermostat in their apartment.

Instead of walking a few hundred metres to the communal washroom, they are now only steps away from their bathroom and can even have a bath.

"I laid in there for a good half hour, I didn't want to get out," Dave said.

The couple is also hugely grateful for the outpouring of kindness from the community.

One week eariler, Dave and Connie at their Vernon campsite.
One week eariler, Dave and Connie at their Vernon campsite.

After iNFOnews.ca published the story of Dave and Connie living in a tent, multiple people came forward offering to help.

One couple said they had an affordable unit on their farm outside Kamloops the couple could live in. Another offered groceries, another a cheaper place to camp. One person said they couldn't do much but would look after their cat if that made life easier for them.

Connie says it shows that there are generous and caring people around.

"I didn't expect anything," Dave said. "I'm not looking for a handout, I've worked all my life."

Dave said they agreed to an interview because he thought it was important that people understand what was going on.

"We didn't really expect anything out of it," he adds.

READ MORE: HOUSING CRISIS: Young couple with pet forced to live in a car in Kelowna

The day the story was published, housing charity Turning Points said they had an apartment for them.

They moved in early and agreed to finish off the cleaning.

They spent a day and a half cleaning the well-used fridge and stove.

Now they live in an unfurnished and rather barren apartment. The couple is planning to hit up some garage sales and thrift stores and get the place furnished.

Dave is really missing the National Hockey League playoffs and just wants to sit in a recliner and watch.

When it happens he says he's going to feel like "a million dollars, like I'm in a mansion."

Connie just wants to sit in a recliner and relax and watch a movie.

Just days earlier, sat at their campsite facing an ominous future, the couple looked stressed. Dave complained about how the cold was affecting his polymyalgia and leaving him stiff and sore struggling to get in and out of the tent.

While the couple put a brave face on, it was apparent that living without power and in a tent was taking its toll.

"We were getting sick and tired of it, every day freezing in the tent, sitting in the car," he said.

Standing in their apartment, there's a different glow coming from them. Not once in the hour-long conversation does Dave mention his poor health. Connie simply looks happier.

The couple reiterate how truly grateful they are to everyone who looked out for them.

But while Dave and Connie now have a roof over their head, many seniors like them are becoming homeless.

Seniors are now one of the faster-growing demographics of people becoming homeless and Turning Points staff say they've received a roughly 30 per cent increase in calls from seniors in need of housing in the last six months.

In 2017, nine per cent of the homeless population were seniors in B.C. and the North Okanagan. By 2021 that number had jumped to 21 per cent.

And it's likely even higher now.

READ MORE: Famine to feast: Poppa Dawg’s life in Kelowna has taken a dramatic turn for the better


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 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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