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Why some evacuees are taking cots over comfy beds

Evacuee cots at Sandman Centre remain in use as Kamloops residents have free rooms that are still empty.
July 19, 2017 - 9:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - Would you rather sleep on a cot in the Sandman Centre with thousands of other people, or would you prefer a queen bed at a cottage on Heffley Lake? While you may prefer the lakeside lodging, some wildfire evacuees are opting for the less comfortable option.

Cache Creek resident Lance Williams and his family are among many evacuees who, despite offerings of free accommodations elsewhere, chose to stay at the Sandman Centre or TRU.

He says there are many factors that that go into the decision of where to go at a time like this, but it is mostly pride.

“Canadians are strong. We’re proud. We’re resilient,” Williams says. “We don’t want to be in a situation where we have to ask for help or even accept it.”

Williams adds communication is another major factor in the decision to stay at one of the less comfortable options, saying the families need to stay in touch with each other.

“Once you get out and you are sort of isolated into another situation, be it a great family or couple,” he says, “you are starting to lose touch with what is going on around you.”

Along with social media, other websites like opendoors.site have been created to connect evacuees with people who have room for them in their homes, but the people posting to those sites have not received many calls.

Westsyde resident Leilani Reid posted on several websites that she could offer room for up to six people as well as an acreage where evacuees could park their RVs, but she didn’t get a single call.

Reid says she also gave her name and information at the various evacuation centres around town but never received a phone call. She did end up welcoming a family into her home but it wasn’t through an online service. She met a family at a gas station and when she offered a place to stay, they accepted.

“I think people prefer to go with somebody they have met in person,” Reid says, “they want to be able to shake your hand and get to know you before coming to your home.”

Another potential reason people prefer to stay at one of the evacuation centres could also be safety. Websites like opendoors.site don’t require anything other than your name and contact information in order to post that you have space. However it does offer some safety tips:

  •  Exchange IDs when you first meet and use your smartphone to take a picture of the identification.
  •  Email or message friends or family with the information of the other person and details of the stay.
  •  Follow your gut. If something doesn't feel right, then do not proceed with the arrangement.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Mike McDonald 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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