(File photo)

Deceased Okanagan man ‘fought to serve our country’

The West Kelowna man was found dead in what’s believed to be a homeless camp

A West Kelowna man who was found dead in a homeless camp fell through the cracks, say members of the shelter that served him.

The West Kelowna Shelter Society released a statement about the man who was found, identifiying him as a 50 year old client of the facility they operate. The BC Coroners Service is investigating the death alongside West Kelowna RCMP.

“He fought to serve our country, and through a series of unfortunate events had recently fallen on hard times,” said Carly Shipmaker of the West Kelowna Shelter Society, in a statement. She explained that meant that he struggled and didn’t want to fall through the cracks, not that he served in the military.

Shipmaker said it’s a, “tragic and heartbreaking time.” And she took the opportunity to address the stigma surrounding people experiencing homelessness.

READ MORE: Body found in West Kelowna homeless camp

READ MORE: Kelowna homelessness count shows more people without shelter

“These individuals are constantly being beaten down with ridicule and prejudice. The fact is that horrible things do not discriminate, they can happen to anybody at anytime,” Shipmaker said.

“The community within the shelter setting and people experiencing homelessness is one of the strongest bonds I have ever seen and have had the privilege of being a part of.”

READ MORE: West Kelowna homeless population is 61 % First Nation, according to survey

Temperatures had been as low as -12 C in the days preceding the man’s death.

“At this time, criminality is not suspected in the man’s death as the investigation continues,” said RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey, spokesperson for the Kelowna Regional Detachment in a press release March 8.

The deceased’s name will not be released to protect his privacy. The RCMP and the BC Coroners Service have no further information as of yet.

READ MORE: West Kelowna homeless out in the cold after shelter runs at max capacity

In February, in an interview with the Capital News, Shipmaker said the society’s shelter on Brown Road has been operating at capacity since it opened this winter and as needs rise, they aren’t able to keep up. They have had to turn people away.

The shelter has been operated in the Westbank United Church by the West Kelowna Shelter Society for the past four years.

They started with 30 beds but since Inn from the Cold’s closure, the shelter increased its capacity to 38. West Kelowna completed its first homeless count in July and found that there are 72 people experiencing homelessness at any given time in the city.

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*CORRECTION: THIS STORY HAS BEEN CHANGED TO ADDRESS CONFUSION AROUND A STATEMENT. WHEN SHIPMAKER SAID THE MAN FOUGHT TO SERVE OUR COUNTRY AND THROUGH A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS HAD RECENTLY FALLEN ON HARD TIMES, SHE DID NOT MEAN HE WAS A VETERAN. THE STORY HAS BEEN CHANGED TO ADDRESS THAT CONFUSION.

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