Patrick O’Connor did not know who to contact or where to go. Cold and hungry, he realized that nothing had prepared him for a life on the street.
“Living on the street was not a real skill of mine,” said O’Connor, 57. “As bad as it sounds, it was probably a good thing. It made me not want to be living on the outside.”
Things had not always been so bleak. O’Connor immigrated to Canada from England as a small child in the 1970s and had a happy childhood. As a young man, he moved to B.C., where he began a successful career as an autobody technician and started a family. O’Connor put down roots in Kamloops. Life was going well. Things began to unravel as O’Connor’s struggles with alcohol addiction intensified.
He always dismissed it as nothing serious. But soon, alcohol gave way to stronger and more addictive substances that kept him from work. Suddenly, O’Connor was out of a job. In the beginning, he would clean himself up and find a new job, which was not difficult with his skills. The addiction would always come creeping back and he would find himself in the ongoing cycle without a job and without a home.
O’Connor bounced around Kamloops, sleeping on friends’ couches, at local shelters and, at the worst of times, on the street. Finally, a friend recommended he connect with Interior Health, where a counsellor told him he might qualify for a new housing complex that was opening in Kamloops.
O’Connor could not believe it. “I wasn’t looking for it,” he said. “It just happened.”
When Spero House opened in March of this year, O’Connor found a new home in one of the 58 units of modular supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness in Kamloops. With 24/7 staffing, and support and encouragement from people at Spero House, O’Connor began feeling healthier from the day he moved in. What he used to take for granted – a hot meal, a warm bed, a safe home – have been instrumental in his recovery.
“For once, I’ve got a stable address,” O’Connor said. “I got my taxes done. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. Before, I had scattered addresses. I don’t have to pack all my possessions and move. It’s comforting to me.”
Six months after moving into Spero House, O’Connor is sober and has energy to try new hobbies like watercolour painting and building scale models. He enjoys cycling around the community, visiting friends and helping neighbours with their yard work. He has been able to visit with his daughter, who lives in town.
O’Connor credits the on-site staff at Spero House as being a key part of his journey. “The staff are so helpful and very open. There’s such good communication with them. They do a wonderful job here.”
When he is ready, O’Connor plans to move out of Spero House and find an affordable apartment in the community with just enough space for his bike and a small, private workshop for his hobbies.
- Oct. 13-19, 2019, is Homelessness Action Week, where people throughout B.C. are encouraged to connect with local organizations and get involved to find solutions to homelessness.
- During the week, communities throughout the province work to increase awareness and empathy to help people like O’Connor. Already, 29 communities have partnered with the Province so far to help people experiencing homelessness and improve the overall health of their communities.
- All new supportive housing buildings in the province have around-the-clock staffing and provide services, such as meal programs, life and employment skills training, health and wellness support services and opportunities for volunteer work.
- In just over two years, government has built more than 2,000 supportive homes, with over 800 more underway. Government intends to build a total of 4,700 over 10 years.
New reports show that supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness is substantially improving the quality of life for residents and reducing their use of emergency health services. The full reports and a summary of the results can be found here: