Cheyanna Dean and Michael Smith say they have noticed that the community is not as kind as it was last year to people who don’t have housing. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Cheyanna Dean and Michael Smith say they have noticed that the community is not as kind as it was last year to people who don’t have housing. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

It’s getting tougher in Salmon Arm to be a person with no housing

Frigid temperatures, no warm place to go, colder attitudes taking their toll, say couple

Being homeless at Christmas is not all that merry when the air is frigid and warm places are scarce.

Cheyanna Dean and Michael Smith came to Salmon Arm from Alberta after Dean’s mother died and the family farm was sold.

They found a job picking strawberries and were doing fine. Until they realized reasonable rents couldn’t be found.

Not wanting to go hungry, they set up a little camp behind the Best Western.

“My husband built the most cool little abode,” says Dean. “We helped so many people to stay warm last winter and have something to eat because we could cook.”

However, they have since been kicked off that land by the owners.

Although Dean is not related to other homeless people in Salmon Arm, they have become her family. They’ve got each other’s backs. Tears well in her eyes when she talks about how much they mean to her. Because her heart is with them, she says she considers herself houseless, or roofless – not homeless.

Read more: A population in crisis – Homelessness in the Shuswap

Read more: Salmon Arm’s homeless shelter opens, busy immediately

She says she’s the designated mama who puts a smile on everyone’s face.

“If I have a down day, everybody has a down day. When I woke up this morning, I’m like, yeah, I’m back. I was so happy, I had to do the happy dance.”

But it can be tough to stay happy when the temperature is cold, there’s no place to live and there’s nowhere warm to go.

She and Smith stayed at the Lighthouse Emergency Shelter for the three nights prior to the interview. She said while the shelter is helpful – a place to get a warm meal, have a shower and perhaps watch TV, “we like to be in our own little home.” She said she and her husband can’t sleep together at the shelter so she doesn’t sleep well, and Smith, who has Tourette syndrome, often has bad dreams. When they’re together, she can help ease him awake.

Relaxing at the shelter can also be difficult for her with all the people and personalities, she says.

Although one of the restaurants in Salmon Arm would allow people to sit for extended periods last winter, Dean says new management, combined with bad behaviour from some people, have changed that.

“The troublemakers. The ones that are, ‘Oh, I’m only here for a few days being homeless and then I get to go home.’ They are the ones that screw it up for people who really are homeless.”

Read more: Homeless tenters must move for four-laning preparation

Read more: Strangers chip into provide support for homeless in Shuswap

The night prior to the interview Smith had set up a tent in one of the stalls at the fairgrounds. Smith says a security company told him he had two hours to take it down or be arrested.

“You can’t go anywhere. It’s tough. We don’t want to be in a shelter,” Dean says. “We want to be able to smoke a joint or have a beer, have a cigarette with a friend even in the next tent. Around here, there’s so much land, but they can’t even give a little area to the homeless just to set up for the winter.”

Dean said she was plagued with a drug addition but has kicked it.

“I didn’t want it, because it made things worse.”

It’s easy for people on the street to fall into that path, she says, because it looks like an easy escape from living and feeling their situation every day.

Depression is a big problem on the street. Dean knows how important it is for people to feel they’re wanted and loved.

“To say I worry about you. To say I need to know if you’re going to be okay. Make that person feel they’re wanted.”

Both Smith and Dean would like to have jobs, but Smith, who says he has a lot of training and is a journeyman plumber, points to the vicious circle.

“You can’t get a job without a house and you can’t get a house without a job.”

Dean says she’d be happy with even a part-time job.

“Something to make me feel like I’m wanted again, by humanity, by the population.”

Read more: Five years ago, homeless man had everything

Read more: Salmon Arm restaurant helps keep homeless people warm

They’ve heard about the affordable housing being built, but they’re not convinced it will be a fit for them.

The couple, plus a few other people nearby, say the community is not as kind to people who are homeless as it was last year.

“They’ve gotten worse, they’ve gotten meaner to us. Way meaner. Last winter they were so loving and caring. And you know, I used to sit in front of No Frills if I needed propane or gas. They were wonderful. This year, you can’t even get a Merry Christmas out of anybody and they just turn their noses down at you. What did I do?”

Dean dreams of having a turkey at Christmas to cook, maybe barbecue, for other people who are homeless.

“Make a little fire and you can rotisserie it. There’s so much you can do. Potatoes, just put them in tinfoil and put them in the fire. It’s the little things. The smile and a Merry Christmas. Please and thank you. Just the simplest things.

No matter what happens, Dean has a wish for the community.

“Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2020 be better for everyone.”



marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Steven Brown is running for Penticton city council in the June by-election. (Contributed)
Penticton race director throws hat into city council ring

Steven Brown will run with a focus on small business

Penticton Vees celebrate a goal in their second win to start their season on Saturday night at the SOEC. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees head into final weekend tied for first in league

The Vees have two games to take the top spot

Coronavirus 3D illustration. (CDC photo)
Two Summerland businesses closed due to COVID-19

The businesses are listed on the Interior Health website

Memorials have been set up to honour those who died during the Second World War. (Pixabay.com)
COLUMN: It’s time to stop making comparisons to Hitler

The deadliest, most destructive war in human history should not become a metaphor

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

A proposed development would see two four-storey affordable housing complexes erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
Local tenants to be prioritized for Armstrong affordable housing project

Staff have drafted an expression of interest to find a developer to move forward with on the project

Most Read