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Man who lost everything still grateful for his new start in Kamloops

Alfred Wilson, a tenant of Mission Flats Manor, poses with one of his paintings on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019.
February 07, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS — At nearly 70 years of age, Alfred Wilson has found himself in supportive housing. It’s not the first time he has been at risk of homelessness, but he’s hoping it’s finally the last.

He’s new to the city, only arriving in Kamloops six months ago.

“I am by myself, alone, a loner,” Wilson says.

Prior to moving into Mission Flats Manor in November, he had been staying at Emerald House, a shelter in downtown Kamloops. His plan is to move into permanent supportive housing to be opened in the spring by B.C Housing on the North Shore. His only real goal is to continue keeping a roof over his head— something that he didn’t have most of his life and to keep on painting.

“Through school, I was always a 100 per cent in my art,” he says. He followed in the footsteps of his father who was also an artist and passed away when Wilson was still a kid.

“It relaxes me, it’s my hobby, it’s what I have always done,” he says. 

Several of his paintings are hung on the walls around Mission Flats Manor in the common areas and in the lobby front office. He mainly paints with acrylic but also does oil and pencil pieces too, he says. Occasionally he sells his paintings when he can.

As a young child, he was separated from his mother, who had a serious drinking problem, and Wilson along with his siblings were put into foster care. He recalls living with five families through his adolescence in his hometown of Toronto. 

“I was popping from home to home, you know, getting into gangs, got in trouble and ended up in prison for a little bit,” he says.

Although life behind bars was hard on a young teenager, he says his ability to paint was his secret to making friends in jail.

“The long-timers [inmates] wanted pictures done of their kids or whatever so I would [paint them] and they would protect me,” he says.

“So nobody touched me,” he says with a laugh. “I used my art.”

Despite serving time, Wilson says his time spent in the foster care system took more of a toll on him.

“You either end up being a slave or treated badly,” he says, referring to living with foster families.

He eventually dropped out of high school when he was only in Grade 10, and it’s something he regrets still today.

“Well I’m kind of kicking myself in the rear end now because if I would have stayed in school I would have been a draftsman,” he says.

As he got older, Wilson says he tried finding steady relationships and even found himself fathering several children in two separate marriages. In both cases, he says the children were taken away from their mother from child protective services.

Although he tried to get custody of them, he found there was little he could do. He admits he thinks about those children often and a friend of his, also living at Mission Flats Manor, has tried telling him to reconnect with his kids.

“I told him to go look for his kids,” says a woman named Bonnie. “I don’t know how many times.”

Wilson says it probably won’t happen.

“At my age, I don’t have anything to give them,” he says. “People don’t understand, I don’t want the aggravation of the kids coming to me [saying] ‘Where were you? You did nothing for me.’”

It’s something he can relate to.

“I am getting into a… kind of a depression,” he says. “I am 69 years old and I don’t know where I am going, I don’t have anything, I’ve lost everything over the years.”

He’s mainly talking about material things and even jokes about the number of things he’s owned over the years.

“All the furniture I’ve ever had over the years I could furnish six or seven different houses, you know,” he says.

Despite what he’s lost, he’s still thankful for some things.

“I have my health, I have a friend,” he says. “My goal is just to get to my house and go on from there.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards 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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