A couple of tents have been removed by the Town of Smithers at the corner of Hwy 16 and King Street, leaving four people without a place to call home.
Kirsten Patrick, her boyfriend Floyd Hyzins, her mom Marina and her mom’s boyfriend Daniel have been staying there for eight months.
“It breaks my heart,” said Patrick. “My mom was expecting to come home to our home that we have been in for eight months. They took it away without giving us any warning or anything …. especially with my sister’s stuff in there.”
Patrick’s 18-year-old sister, Jessica died in 2018. The investigation into her death is ongoing.
“It literally went to the dump,” added Patrick. “My baby sister’s big picture that we had from her funeral last year and her wallet. That was the last thing we had from her. It really hurts, it was the only thing we had.”
Patrick said they were not affiliated with the camp further down the street that was cleaned up by the town last month. Smithers council decided to clean up the area after several neighbours along Fourth Avenue complained of noise, drug use and a smelly fire burning.
Patrick added she and her family were not causing disturbances or using drugs.
“My cousin texted me and said ‘oh they are taking your tent down’ and I said ‘What?!’ and she said ‘oh the Town is taking down your tent.’ So I started running and booked it down here and by the time I got here they already had my mom’s whole tent in the back of a dump truck. I asked if I could go in there and grab things. I told them I needed my sister’s big picture.”
She said they told her they’d try to go through it but doesn’t think they did.
“I started crying,” she said.
“We are just pretty sad that it happened,” added Hyzins.
Bylaw officer Matt Davey confirmed the Town removed the tents and cleaned up the area on Nov. 15. He did not give the residents notice because he did not think they were living there anymore, he said.
“The landlord of the King Street Apartments had indicated that the tents had been abandoned stating that he had seen no activity for over two weeks,” Davey said. “I was told by a housing advocate that the main tenant, Marina Patrick, had re-located to a community north of Smithers. I visited the tents on three occasions and they appeared barricaded and uninhabited.”
Kirsten Patrick said her mom was just visiting Good Hope and was planning on coming back last weekend until she heard about her tent being removed. Patrick isn’t sure when her mom will be back now and where she will stay once she gets back. Patrick and Hyzins have been looking for somewhere to stay, but so far they have been either sleeping outside or with a relative. Her baby is staying with her aunt.
Davey added he attempted to put aside any re-usable items or things that may be of further use into his truck. However clean-up crews did not conduct a thorough search of the tents due to possible risks of contaminants being present.
“Heavy machinery was used to lift debris into the garbage truck and the items were transported to the Smithers Transfer Station,” Davey said.
He added when Patrick and Hyzins did show up toward the end of the clean-up, he helped them gather some items and he will put them into storage until they can find suitable housing.
Davey has been discussing relocating the camp with Marina Patrick to a less visible and problematic location since the spring. He said she is aware of the issues the location of their camp has been causing for neighbouring properties.
Housings advocates have long said finding suitable housing can be a challenge with the new supportive housing building, Goodacre Place, at capacity, Broadway Shelter closed and limited availability and high rental prices.
“We will continue to work with the displaced residents and will advocate on their behalf to secure housing,” added Davey.