The homeless man who died in Kelowna this week was loved by many | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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The homeless man who died in Kelowna this week was loved by many

This is the memorial set up at the Recreation Avenue tent camp where Shane Bourdin may have overdosed.
December 19, 2019 - 12:25 PM

"His name was Shane."

As recent friends who knew him from his time in Kelowna use that line on social media so he's not forgotten as just another homeless person, just another addict who died in the cold, those who knew 39-year-old Shane Bourdin best aren't so concerned about that.

“He was an amazing man,” his mother Theresa Whittier told from her Red Deer home. “He had a heart of gold.”

He was also a troubled soul who grew up with learning disabilities, low self-esteem and anger issues if provoked, Whittier said.

He grew up mostly in Maple Ridge and Nanaimo where “he was a normal kid,” Whittier said. “He had a lot of friends and had a happy life.”

But that happy life included his parents splitting up when he was five, being angry because his father had nothing much to do with him and difficulty in school, she said. Whittier dated a man in Nanaimo who, she discovered, was dealing drugs and likely introduced Bourdin to crack cocaine.

He was also a hard worker, mostly in landscaping where he started at the age of 15, always winning the praise of his employers, Whittier said. He held a number of different jobs.

He fathered a son, who is now 14, with his high school sweetheart. They split up, in part, because of his drug use, Whittier said.

After moving to live with Whittier in Red Deer, Bourdin got together with the woman who lived across the street. When she got pregnant, he moved with her to Terrace where she had family.

They had two daughters but it was a difficult relationship, Whittier said. Whittier is going to Terrace for Christmas to spend time with her granddaughters.

A couple of years ago, Bourdin separated from his partner and started getting into trouble with the law. He was arrested for break and enter, possession of drugs and stolen property as well as a charge of uttering threats.

Last year he was sentenced to a year in jail and shipped to prison in Prince George. His sentence was reduced for good behaviour, Whittier said but, for reasons they never understood, he was driven to Kelowna for his release last spring.

“He was so excited to get out so he could go back to Terrace to see his kids,” Whittier said.

Bourdin never made that trip after being told he was not allowed to see his children.

Shane Bourdin with one of his daughters
Shane Bourdin with one of his daughters
Image Credit: FACEBOOK

“That’s when he really crashed,” Whittier, who had regular contact with him by phone and visits to him in jail, said. “He said ‘I have nothing in my life. I have nothing to live for.’”

Bourdin was given a housing allowance from social services and was renting space from a family member in Kelowna, sleeping on her couch, Whittier said. Almost all his cheque went to rent so he moved out in the summer and ended up living on the street.

“I wanted him to move here,” Whittier said. “He didn’t want to. I don’t know why because he loves me to pieces. He can’t say enough about me. But, maybe, he thought he would be a burden on me. I don’t know.”

He ended up living in the tent camp off Recreation Avenue sanctioned by the city since there were not enough shelter spaces for the homeless. While the family did a lot of camping when he grew up, he hated being there.

It was at the camp where he met Shilo Ashbury, one of the handful of volunteers who have taken it upon themselves to help that group of homeless people.

She and Bourdin met on Sunday afternoon and talked about how to get him back on his feet. She was going to meet with him on Monday to help him with the paperwork that he struggled with and to navigate through what can be a confusing social services system.

But, he died Monday morning, alone.

Whittier has yet to be told the cause of death. Blood samples are being analyzed. Depending on the results of those tests, an autopsy may be performed.

Her plans were to have his body cremated and flown back to her in Red Deer where she was going to hold a celebration of life. But, after talking with Ashbury and others, Whittier decided to, first of all, hold a service in Kelowna because of all the friends Bourdin made in the short time he was here.

“He was such kind man and such a wonderful father”, Whittier said. “He never, ever got angry unless somebody provoked him. He was kind, caring and very loving. He would reach out to help anybody he could.”

A candlelight vigil was held for Bourdin at the camp last night.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 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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