Vernon homeless couple get ready to move after eviction notice served - InfoNews

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Vernon homeless couple get ready to move after eviction notice served

Michael Jacob and Steph Broersma sit at their campsite near the BX Creek, June 4. They've since been evicted.
June 09, 2019 - 12:00 PM

VERNON - As Michael Jacob stands by an endless piles of his possessions, he says he's trying to downsize and get ready for his move. Like many couples, he and his partner, Steph Broersma, are disagreeing about what to take and what to leave behind.

Unlike most couples however, they won't be having a yard sale to shift their stuff.

Jacob and Broersma have been living in a tent on the banks of BX Creek, next to Highway 97, near the rear of the Rona store, since last year.

The Ministry of Transportation issued an eviction notice, pinning the letter to a post near the camp May 29. The order states they have to leave by June 2.

Two days later they are still there, tidying up and getting ready to move on. Today, June 6, they've moved about 100 metres down the trail.

Jacob says they're sorting their possessions and "downsizing" getting ready for their move. They're heading outside of the city's limits, where he's hoping they'll be left alone.

The couple says they lived next to the creek all winter, along with a friend named Dustin. They survived on "the kindness of strangers," Broersma says.

"Meals on wheels saved our life," she says. The meal service delivered food to them on the weekend. "If it hadn't been for them, we wouldn't have made it through the winter," she adds.

It's hard to fathom how anyone could live in such conditions, let alone throughout the winter. The smell of garbage scattered about lingers in the air. Bits of furniture, broken pallets, old mattresses and endless pieces of broken plastic litter the site.

The couple sit on upside down milk crates to talk.

Jacob says he's 39-year-old and has been homeless since he got out of prison a couple of years ago. He says he was homeless before he went to prison. He says he has a checkered past and is vague about how long he's been on the street.

"It all starts to become one long big blur," he says.

Drugs got him into prison. He says he became addicted to morphine after an accident and he still uses.

He's adamant he doesn't support himself through crime, which makes life more difficult. He says he panhandles, collects empties and in the winter shovels driveways. He says he has no stolen goods at the campsite.

Broersma says she turned 34 a few days ago. Jacob says she hasn't been homeless as long as him, maybe a year or so.

Previously Broersma says she was and in and out of a psychiatric hospital for a while. She's softly spoken and articulate and doesn't look as hardened to life under a tarp on the side of a highway as Jacob does.

She said the RCMP turned up on her birthday and told her they had to leave.

"Basically telling me I didn't do good enough and I should not be living like this," she says.

"The problem is we don't have proper garbage disposal. They don't give us anywhere we're allowed to camp. No access to running water, no access to garbage disposal," says Jacob. "If we had a designated area where we were allowed it wouldn't be a huge mess, it wouldn't be a problem, it wouldn't be an eyesore. We could live properly."

They both say a homeless shelter is not a place for them.

"It's hard to be there... I find it difficult to be around... I don't do well around lots of people," Broersma says.

They both say they're heading out of town and would like to find some Crown land to live on, somewhere where they can be "left alone."

Three large bins sit at the campsite full of garbage Broersma cleaned up. There's still a lot of stuff lying around, but everyone has different levels of what tidy is.

Jacob says they'll leave soon on their bikes with one trailer full of stuff.

They just need to agree on the "downsizing."

The couple gets ready for their move, June 6.
The couple gets ready for their move, June 6.

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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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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