Why a well-known Kamloops homeless man and his cat struggle to find a place to live | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops News

Why a well-known Kamloops homeless man and his cat struggle to find a place to live

Graham Donovan and his cat Famous.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Facebook

- This story was originally published Jan. 3, 2022.

Some homeless people in Kamloops struggle to find a place to live because they do not have personal identification or they cannot find a place that is free from the temptations of open drug and alcohol use.  

Graham Donovan, along with his cat Famous, are living out in the cold despite efforts by supportive community members and friends to find him housing. Donovan is well-known in Kamloops's Valleyview neighbourhood.

Sara Hyslop has been helping Donovan and his furry companion since meeting him over two years ago. She's spent a Christmas and birthday with him, washes his blankets, helps to look after his money and belongings, and stores cat food at her house. She said despite her best efforts there are barriers to getting him into a safe living space. 

“The biggest issue is that Graham doesn’t have a piece of identification,” Hyslop said. “This prevents him from accessing housing, motels and hotels. At one time ASK Wellness did the work to get his birth certificate but it was stolen along with his cart soon afterward, before I could get him government-issued photo identification to go with it.”

READ MORE: Renovictions, Airbnb major drivers behind rising homeless numbers in Kelowna

Hyslop said Graham doesn’t want to be in an environment where he could be tempted to relapse from a drug addiction.

“He was offered housing through ASK Wellness but he would have had to be around people using drugs and he feels he will relapse in that kind of environment,” Hyslop said. “He typically stays out in the Valleyview area away from the low barrier shelters and hangouts downtown.”

Hyslop said Donovan is a quiet guy who would give a stranger the shirt off his back. A group of five residents stay in contact on social media with one another keeping an eye on the his well-being.

She said Donovan’s nice and trusting nature makes him a target to other people living on the streets.

“He often has his cart and belongings stolen,” she said. “Every month he brings his cheque to me to ration money out to him weekly because he has nowhere safe to carry anything.”

Hyslop said she wants to see Donovan find a safe, warm place to live with Famous his cat.

“He has some mental challenges and is on medication,” she said. “He has lived on the streets for 30 years after aging out of foster care. He would need help learning basic skills, and we have volunteers prepared to help with that.”

Hyslop cannot take the pair in after having just adopted two children and with most household members allergic to cats.

READ MORE: Senior dies amid homeless shelter shortage in Kamloops

Jennifer Dawn Adams has been a street outreach worker in Kamloops for over a decade.

She said she is aware of several homeless people who are in a similar situation as Graham and hopes more light will be shed on the personal identification and housing issues.

“Most of the people I have worked with do not have personal identification,” she said. “It is extremely common for those without an ID to be unable to access motels and hotels. These people are vulnerable, are often robbed and do not have safe places to store important items.”

Adams said there are very few high barrier spaces available in Kamloops for those who need to stay away from drug use in order to avoid relapse.

“Most housing models available to the homeless have a dedicated consumption area onsite that can be a trigger,” she said. “I think we need to spread the housing models out to meet the needs of those who are in different places on their paths to recovery.”

Adams said it isn’t easy for people to access help to get sober in Kamloops, with limited beds available in local rehab facilities that are currently further reduced due to COVID restrictions.

“We need to continue to get educated on the issues and provide more abstinence free spaces for those trying to get better,” she said. “We need to keep having these conversations. If the right ideas emerge it can help push things into a positive and less dangerous environment, and increase chances of recovery.”

As for Famous the cat, Adams said she has been seeing a growing trend in supportive housing programs to allow for pets, to improve owners’ mental health.

ASK Wellness declined to comment for confidentiality reasons. Canadian Mental Health Association in Kamloops did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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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