'We're not bad people': Why a homeless man is stuck on the street in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'We're not bad people': Why a homeless man is stuck on the street in Kamloops

Homeless Kamloops man Murray Love eats ice cream near Riverside Park.

Murray Love sits on a concrete step in downtown Kamloops eating ice cream on a sunny afternoon. His girlfriend Shannon is enjoying a cup of ice cream too, but keeps nodding off.

The pair are homeless and have been living together on the street in Kamloops for several years.

Each time Shannon falls asleep, her cup starts to tip over and Love says her name to wake her up. She shakes her head and takes another bite.

“She’s really tired, she doesn’t sleep a lot, she’s too afraid to sleep at night so I sit beside her during the day while she naps for a few hours,” Love said. “We’ll go find somewhere near the river to rest, if we try to nap in the park bylaw will move us along, even though it’s legal, just because we’re homeless.”

Cities in the province have been struggling to cope with increasing social disorder as homeless populations grow and Kamloops is no exception. Crime, open drug use, overdoses and litter strewn encampments are just a few of the ongoing concerns.

But Love said homeless people are not all bad. There are reasons why they have ended up on the streets, and reasons why they are stuck there.

“There are good and bad people everywhere, because of homeless stigma people want to sweep us under the carpet and forget about us.”

The power of drug addiction, unresolved childhood trauma and the lack of affordable housing are a few reasons why Love can’t get on his feet, and all of that is compromised by sleep deprivation.

“People say we have it easy, we don’t have bills to pay, we don’t have anything to worry about, but we do,” he said. “We’re always being moved around, you can’t go here, you can’t go there, pushed around and around. We’re sleep deprived, always looking for food and water. We don't have a room to hide in to just relax and recover, it's just survival mode." 

He sits beside his girlfriend during the day while she naps because she is too afraid to of being assaulted at night, but without enough shelter beds to go around, sleeping outside isn’t a choice.

“We have dinner at Mustard Seed and then to Out of the Cold to get in a lineup to see if we get a bed that night,” Love said in a previous interview with iNFOnews.ca. “In the winter you stand outside for there hours in the cold for a bed you might not get. It fills up and 20 people are still standing out there, there aren’t enough services out there.”

Love grew up in Lillooet as one of six boys with a single mother on welfare. He said he suffered abuse as a child and it has taken years for him to work through the effects.

“I’ve taken a lot of responsibility for that and I’m getting better,” he said. “I have family members around but things fell apart when I got into drug addiction. I don’t do hard drugs anymore, just grass.”

Love used to live on the streets in Vernon, where for a short time he had a job as a roofer.

“I was sleeping behind a Tim Hortons and one day my boss picked me up, found out how I was living and he couldn’t believe it.”

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Love later moved to Kamloops and took a job at a manufacturing plant. During the pandemic he was faced with a medical issue and took a leave from his job to get his gallbladder removed. He has been on disability ever since.

“I was saving money to find a place when my body couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “Now I can’t return to work because things have got so sour. Being on disability it’s so to find a place to rent and be safe, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Love said he was able to find a rental unit this past winter but couldn’t keep up with the cost of rent and food, and ended up back on the streets.

“I can’t get a place to stay, there are a lot of people here who want a place to be, we want a roof, but the rentals are so expensive,” he said. “There isn’t housing for the middle and lower classes and to get into an apartment you have to be working and have at least three references.

“I was in a place, they kicked me out and said I could come back after they doubled the rent to $1,800. There is no cap on these rental rates.”

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While Love claims he isn’t currently in active addiction with hard drugs, drug use is around him every day and he is very familiar with the powerful hold it has on users and the fear that comes with it. 

“Once people have a heroin addiction, no one can make them quit,” he said. “They have to do it on their own. I’ve seen people detox, it’s bad.”

He choked up talking about the number of people he knows who have overdosed in the city, and shared his perspectives on the provincial government’s recent drug recriminalization decision.

“This addiction is one of the worst, there are carfentanyl and benzodiazepines going into this stuff. If was just heroine, people wouldn’t be dying. If someone doesn’t mix it properly, if someone wants to give someone down with fentanyl in it, they’re dead.”

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Love often carries Narcan kits with him and has used it to save people in the past. Recriminalizing drug use in public places adds an extra element of risk.

“It’ll push people back in the alley where they’ll use along and die, we won’t walk by and see them and assist them,” he said. “We’re told not to smoke alone but when we’re in a group someone calls the cops. The public doesn’t want to see drugs but forcing us into back alleys and down by the river, people will be dying more.”

When asked where a person wanting recovery would go, Love said there are few options.

“People go into detox asking for help but there isn’t a place to send them for recovery after. After the program they’re back out on the street, going back to the way they were to survive and things go south again.”

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Love is currently speaking to people on the street and helping organizations in the city to organize a protest against the closure of two day spaces. The plan is to set up a tent city on the grass in front of City Hall to demand food and shelter.

“A lot of us don’t want to be homeless addicts, we have something in our background that has driven us to this point. Yes, some have addictions but it isn’t a bad thing if it’s managed properly. We’re not bad people, we're just trying to survive out here."

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