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

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Younger Princeton residents are now being urged to register for a vaccination notification. (Black Press Media photo)
Princeton lags behind in vaccination rates

Approximately 24 per cent of residents here have received their first dose

Sisters Audrey Cunningham and Donna Erdman, join the Vernon Kalamalka Chorus singing in their cars, tuned into the radio, under the direction of Debbie Parmenter. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
VIDEO: Okanagan choir steers around COVID with ‘carbershop’ twist

Singers find a unique way to practice during pandemic restrictions

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

A Falkland man will present a 600+ signature petition to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board Thursday, May 20, opposing dog control in Electoral Area D, which includes Falkland, Silver Creek, Salmon Valley and Ranchero/Deep Creek. (File photo)
600-plus sign Falkland man’s petition against dog control

Similar bylaw rejected by 200 public hearing attendees when topic came up 9 years ago

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Notes of hope, encouragement and camaraderie were left on the message board inside the kitchen of TacoTime. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Adiós, Taco Tuesday: Kelowna residents flock to TacoTime on restaurant’s final day

‘We don’t need another Starbucks. We need tacos on Tuesday, with extra hot sauce’

RCMP. (Black Press File)
Major Crimes called in after two bodies discovered near Penticton

A manhunt involving a police helicopter took place on May 10

Most Read