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Kamloops business owner learning addictions outreach is complicated

Over the last year, Reid Hamer-Jackson has conducted his own unconventional outreach work in Kamloops, directed at the homeless and people with addictions.
July 06, 2021 - 7:00 AM

It's 4 a.m. and Reid Hamer-Jackson is doing his semi-regular rounds throughout Kamloops.

He’s a successful salesman and business owner but he’s not selling cars this morning. He’s on a mission.

READ MORE: Formerly homeless youth in Kamloops calls out 'short-term' solutions

He approaches a woman on Tranquille Road named Kelsey and asks where she is staying. She is sitting at a bus stop at about 4:30 a.m. with a friend, carefully placing an unknown substance into a piece of tinfoil.

Kelsey says she is staying at the Rosethorn, but was kicked out and didn't say why. Hamer-Jackson continued with more questions.

"Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Do you have a place to stay now?"

"Is there anything more the government could do to help you?"

Hamer-Jackson says he can help her get into treatment.

"I don't think I'm ready for that,” she says.

Hamer-Jackson looks stunned.

"I think we'd like to be left alone right now," she said.

This isn’t an unusual interaction for Hamer-Jackson. He seems almost possessed by the idea that he can personally help with the city’s homelessness and drug issues. He invited me along for the ride to see for myself.

We met at his West Victoria car dealership, Tru Market. The sun hasn’t crested over the horizon yet, but the air is already heavy in the June heat wave. While getting people into shelter is part of his concern, helping drug users seek out detox and drug treatment services is his main goal.

READ MORE: Vans, libraries, and bottled water will help homeless in the Okanagan and Kamloops fight the heat

While he encourages users to seek out treatment, he is also in staunch opposition to harm reduction strategies. As he sees it, harm reduction allows for continued use without a pathway to recovery.

His methods are abrupt but it's what he knows. He is specifically aiming to get drug users to check into Vision Quest's recovery facility near Logan Lake.

Vision Quest focuses on abstinence-based recovery, but no detox is required, according to executive director Megan Worley.

Worley said she admires Hamer-Jackson's efforts. After all, he owns a car dealership and has no obligation to do outreach work. But she also said it's not how outreach work is usually done.

"Most outreach workers don't work that way, but Reid is just direct — he's just jumping right to it. Outreach is about meeting people where they're at and offering services," she said. "The idea is that they would be working towards recovery and it starts with something as simple as a bottle of water, offering to help them get ID or getting them housing. It honestly depends on the moment."

While she heads a program that is dedicated to helping users recover from their addictions, she also is a firm believer that she can’t force a user to enter a Vision Quest program.

Worley’s daughter is a drug user. Over the years, Worley has spent countless nights worrying about her. She has tried many times to bring her home or keep her in a hotel room where she knows her daughter will be safe.

But it doesn’t work.

“One of the key reasons addicts stay addicts is shame,” she said.

She’s decided to let her daughter decide when she’s ready to seek out treatment, as she does with her Vision Quest clients.

Clients who stay at the Rosethorn, for example, are welcome to stay at the 42-unit facility for as long as they like. Alfred Achoba, acting director of CMHA Kamloops, said clients move on to treatment only when they're ready — and when a bed becomes available.

While Vision Quest doesn't do outreach work, it depends on other organizations like the Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society or Ask Wellness to help make potential clients aware of their services. It's not free to stay at Vision Quest, but they offer payment plans. About 80% of clients use government assistance in conjunction with a payment plan, Worley said.

“Could we do it if we had more funding? Yes. Would it be more effective? I couldn’t say,” Worley said, when asked if Vision Quest would start their own outreach work.

She also said that most of their clients make their way to Vision Quest from the justice system and call the intake line from corrections facilities.

Hamer-Jackson's business, Tru Market, sits across the street from the Rosethorn and Emerald House facilities on West Victoria Street. The business owner and car salesman has experienced vandalism, car theft from his lot, had to talk down a Rosethorn resident from a train car and is in consistent contact with City staff and officials.

According to him, it was his pleas to B.C. Housing that finally brought Lapper Security to West Victoria Street for regular patrols.

It has since become his life's work to get drug users in Kamloops out of harm reduction and into treatment. The imagined final product for Hamer-Jackson is to have a treatment facility built in Rayleigh, where clients would supposedly abide by an abstinence-based treatment plan. City officials have doubted the feasibility of this proposal, but that doesn't mean he'll give up.

He's been venturing out to help connect drug users with recovery options and bring people without housing to shelters for about a year.

In Kamloops' 2018 Point in Time survey of the homeless population, nearly a third reported that substance use was what caused their lack of housing. The survey was also done again in the spring of 2021, but the final report is yet to be released.

READ MORE: Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon see high number of overdose deaths

In the first five months of 2021, 130 people have died in relation to overdose in the Interior Health region, with 60 just in Kamloops, according to B.C. Coroners Service.

Hamer-Jackson is a successful salesperson. He’s not afraid of hearing people say no and no doesn’t tend to stop him or dampen his spirit. He stops downtown to speak with another man who was carefully walking a full shopping cart down First Avenue. He says his last name is Teichrieb and said he's originally from Clearwater.

Hamer-Jackson asks Teichrieb if he could help get him into treatment, assuming he uses drugs, to which Teichrieb quietly replied, "Maybe." Eventually, he continued down toward Riverside Park.

Hamer-Jackson planned to find him along Tranquille Road later in the day, but he couldn’t locate the man. Hamer-Jackson is sure that with a few more attempts, Teichrieb might be willing to go to treatment.

“If you had a few cracks at him, paid attention to him, maybe he’d listen. At first, he didn't want to talk to us, you could tell, but then he opened up a bit,” Hamer-Jackson said later on the phone.

But Kelsey will likely need plenty more time before he can make progress with her, Hamer-Jackson said.

He'll be out in the streets again, chatting and looking to help, until he's satisfied that either there is enough drug users entering treatment or there is more outreach workers in Kamloops so he can get back to his life as a father and business owner.


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.

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