Kelowna man delivering water, popsicles to homeless people as mercury soars | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Kelowna man delivering water, popsicles to homeless people as mercury soars

Battery operated cooling fans to hand out to the homeless in Kelowna.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/John Thiessen

A Kelowna man has been busy helping street entrenched folks stay hydrated and cool as temperatures soar in the Okanagan.

John Thiessen calls his group Donate to Hydrate and handed out 75 bottles of Gatorade, 100 bottles of water, 70 popsicles and lots of fruit and kindness yesterday, July 25. 

“There are many people helping this cause and making donations,” he said. “I am just the delivery guy.”

Thiessen said although there are watering stations scattered throughout Kelowna they're not enough in the scorching temperatures. With the help of a few others, he takes donations and purchases supplies which he loads up in his car and hand delivers to people living on the street.

A week-long heat wave is hitting most of B.C. and temperatures are expected to stay well above 30 Celsius until Sunday, July 31, with overnight lows around 18 to 20 C. Municipal governments were meeting to plan cooling centre locations in the Okanagan region. 

READ MORE: Kamloops, Penticton open cooling centres, others still planning

“The watering stations don’t serve their intended purpose,” Thiessen said. “The people on the streets have all their worldly possessions in shopping carts and are tasked to go many blocks to get water. I’ve come across people suffering from heat exhaustion and had to take people to the hospital.”

Thiessen has bought 50 small battery operated fans and 50 spritzer bottles to hand out.

“Last year I gave out water pistols so people can have fun while they are cooling off, there were tears and thankfulness,” he said. “Most of the time they get screamed at and called names. And there are times when I’m there helping people and others drive by yelling rude comments at me out their windows.”

It isn’t the first time Thiessen has brought aid to people living in the streets. He has been motivated to help keep “friends” warm in the winter and cool in the summer since 2019.

“In November of 2019 it was getting cold out and the City was moving a large homeless camp to a ball diamond at the Rec Centre,” he said. “I decided that day watching these friends’ belongings being thrown around to start loading them up in my car and help move them. At the end of the day there were probably 120 friends moved to Rec Centre Tent City.”

Thiessen went back the following day to learn more about the living situations of the homeless.

“Snow was starting to fall and the rule was they could not set up tents until 7 p.m. when it was dark out, and had to take them down the next morning by 9 a.m.,” he said.

A car loaded with cold water, popsicles and Gatorade to hand out the homeless in Kelowna during the heat wave.
A car loaded with cold water, popsicles and Gatorade to hand out the homeless in Kelowna during the heat wave.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/John Thiessen

Thiessen initiated a volunteer force in the area to help ensure the friends were fed and had warm socks and blankets.

“The donations started to come in and we were providing electrical blankets for those living in tents and some generators,” he said. “I was sickened at how these people were being treated so I tried to be a voice for them and was there with them every day.”

Since then Thiessen has continued to help those in need, especially during times of temperature extremes.

“People send me money and I go buy what is needed and bring it to the friends,” he said. “I always have a wing person to ride along with me. The ability to help others is the best gift one can receive because it comes back to you tenfold.”

READ MORE: It's going to get hot; heat warning issued for Okanagan, Kamloops

Thiessen is open to others joining in the delivery process and expanding the group.

“We can meet and shop together, and share the distributing,” he said. “People like to help and the more we can serve in the hot, ugly climate the better.”

Thiessen is aware not everyone shares in his desire to help those living on the streets.

“Many people don’t understand that not all the people living on the street are part of the crime scene,” he said. “There are many people like you and I that have been set back to places they never thought they would be in.

“The people I serve care about each other more than anything and they take care of each other. I say there is a far more loving community with my friends in the street than the one I live in.”

If you want to volunteer or make a donation to Donate to Hydrate contact John via email at johncithiessen@shaw.ca.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie 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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